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Invention Convention

Wk 2: Creating a Letter of Request

Learning Outcomes: 
  • The learner will consider who would have the necessary supplies and what information they would need to consider making a donation.
  • The learner will write a letter of request, seeking a donation to be used for Invention Convention.
  • Fourth Grade, English Language Arts, Goal 4, Objective 4.06
  • Fourth Grade, English Language Arts, Goal 4, Objective 4.09

Part One

  • The teacher will use informal assessment the next time students make a request of the teacher (extra time to work, more recess, a specific read aloud book, etc.)  The teacher will observe whether the students can explain whom the request benefits, what is involved, and why it is beneficial and necessary. 

Part Two

  • During the writing process, the teacher will make informal observations as to whether the students can answer the essential questions in their plan, and turn their plan into a draft.
  • The teacher and the student will work together to assess how the student employed the writing skills, as well as considering the ongoing, personal student goals already in place. 

“Invention Convention” is an integrated project combining learning from language arts, science, and math curriculums allowing students to apply their understandings of magnets and electricity by designing or improving an existing invention.

Classroom Time Required: 

Part One – Twenty minutes

  • Using a role-play activity, students will consider what information a person would need in order to consider making a donation.

Part Two – Three writing sessions

  • Using the information brainstormed from part one, students will complete a plan, draft, and published copy of a letter of requesting asking for supply donations to help with Invention Convention.
Materials Need: 

Part One

  • Candy, erasers, special pencils, etc. that can be given to one student and eventually shared with the class

Part Two

  • Letter of Request Plan
  • Adjustable template for English Language Learners or students needing writing modifications
  • Letter of Request Rubric
  • Postage stamps (one for each student)
  • Envelopes (one for each student)
  • Prior to this lesson, students should understand the concept of Invention Convention so they will be familiar with the types of materials they could potentially need to develop their inventions.  Most students will write to request general supplies, but if student’s write to request specific supplies, this lesson could be inserted in week three, after students outline their “Materials  / Costs.”

Part One

  • The purpose of this activity is for students to understand that when they request something from a person or a business, they must present their case that outlines who the request is for, what, when, and how it will be used, and why the donation is necessary. 
  • The teacher should carefully choose a student to present with the desired “treat.”  (For this plan, the treat will be a bag of mini candy bars.)  The teacher should privately prepare the student to display the candies to the class, and to ask “non-boastful” questions that will foster discussion.  The teacher may want to practice with the student asking questions including, “Who will share the candies, two people, or the class?  What will you do with the candies?  How will they be divided fairly?  Why is it necessary that I share the candies?, etc.
  • When the student enters the room and the class notices the candy, the teacher should assume the role of “clarifier and recorder,” as the chosen student facilitates discussion.  While the discussion takes place, the teacher may need to clarify or rephrase some questions / comments.  The teacher will also record the information requested / given on the board. 
  • When the discussion comes to a close, the class may share the treats (if that was the resolution the class arrived at.) 
  • The teacher should then facilitate a discussion helping students to classify the information the chosen student needed in order to want to share the candies with the class. 
  • The teacher will then remind the students about Invention Convention and the materials they will need.  The teacher will introduce the idea of asking local businesses for supplies.  The teacher will ask, what type of questions would a business owner ask and need information about when considering whether to make a donation.  As the students share, the teacher will record the information.  (This final review can also serve as an informal assessment.)  Hopefully, these questions will be brainstormed:


    • Who will use this donation?
    • What will the donation be used for?  How will the donation be used?  When will the donation be used?
    • Why is this donation needed and/ or important?

Part Two

  • (Depending on how your literacy block and writing time is set up, planning, drafting, and publishing the letter of request could take various amounts of time.)
  • The teacher will explain that each student will write a “Letter of Request” to a local business asking for donations to be used for Invention Convention.
  • As a class, brainstorm local stores to write to.  Possibilities include Lowes, Home Depot, Radio Shack, lumber stores, fabric stores, hobby stores, etc.  Remember to include locally owned shops, as well.  Allow each student to pick a store and to decide what supplies would be reasonable to request from that particular store. 
  • Give each student a “Letter of Request” plan that can be printed from the Lessons page of the Invention Convention website.  (The plan is in PDF in case you need to make changes to have the plan match the questions the students brainstormed from Part One.)  At the end of planning, have students peer share their plans.  Model how one student will ask one of the questions, and the other student will answer the question, pointing out where the answer exists in the plan. 
  • Review the “Letter of Request” template you plan to use, as different templates vary.  (Usually, letters of request are aligned left, separating sections with a line of space.  The follow this order:  return address, date, address of requested business, greeting, paragraphs with no indentions, closing, signature, and title.)   Whichever template / form you use, make sure your students understand the expectations. 
  • Students will use their plans to create the first draft of their letter. 
  • At some point, the teacher will need facilitate a conversation with students addressing polite ways to request donations.  Most students will write, “Please donate D cell batteries.”  As a class, students can brainstorm other ways of making this request without being repetitive and still being polite.  Some possibilities include:  would you consider, if possible, if you are able, could you help us to get, do you have any suggestions as to how we could, etc. 
  • Once drafts are complete, the teacher will review, conference, or facilitate a peer conference to help students make improvements to their drafts. 
  • The student will then use the Letter of Request rubric to make sure that necessary information, form, and conventions are utilized in their letter by color-coding and check offs. 
  • With teacher permission, the students will publish their drafts.  Since these will be mailed to local businesses, it is necessary that business owners will be able to read, understand, and decode the letter.  The teacher may want to make a copy of the published draft to save. 
  • Prior to mailing the letters, it may be necessary for the teacher to review how to address and stamp envelopes. 
  • “Who, what, when, where, and why”
  • Writing Template
Supplemental Files: