The CNN article “Kids Take on Lunch Lady—and Win” describes how second graders undertook a letter-writing campaign at William V. Wright Elementary School to convince the cafeteria workers to stop serving frozen green beans. After reading Andrew Clements book Frindle, in which the main character considers organizing a cafeteria boycott, students at the Las Vegas school discussed ways to protest the food in their own cafeteria. They wrote letters to the cafeteria workers, including comments like these:
"Dear Mrs. Duits, The food is so yummy and yummy. But there are one proplem. It is the green beans," wrote Zhong Lei.As a result of their letters, the food service department of the Clark County School District talked to the students, had taste tests, and agreed to tweak the cafeteria menu.
"We love the rest but we hate the green beans," wrote Viviann Palacios.
In the world of test-driven curriculum, such a writing activity may seem silly. In truth, its the best kind of student writing we can ask for. The NCTE Beliefs about the Teaching of Writing explain:
Writing . . . should not be viewed as an activity that happens only within a classroom’s walls. Teachers need to support students in the development of writing lives, habits, and preferences for life outside school . . . . As much as possible, instruction should be geared toward making sense in a life outside of school, so that writing has ample room to grow in individuals’ lives.The students who took on the “lunch lady” at William V. Wright Elementary learned more about persuasive writing than any amount of test preparation could have taught them. Preparing students to write persuasive letters for standardized tests is meaningless compared to teaching them to compose letters for an authentic audience and purpose with concrete outcomes they can understand. When writing matters beyond the classroom walls, students become better writers. Thats the best kind of student writing!