Dear... Passion Letters

As a reading and writing teacher with 54 minute class periods, I am always looking for ways to authentically integrate reading and writing, especially through mentor texts.

With March Madness in full swing and state testing around the corner, I wanted to do a lesson with my students that I could connect to basketball, but also review poetry.  I did some Googling (is that even a verb) and came across Dear Basketball written by Kobe Bryant.

Dear Basketball is a letter Bryant wrote in 2015 to announce his retirement from basketball.  He does an amazing job of describing in detail what basketball has meant to him throughout his career.  I knew that my students would enjoy and be able to relate to this poem whether or not they loved basketball themselves because of the amount of passion that Bryant put into his writing.  I also knew that many of my students might not even know who Bryant is, which lead to me looking for a video of the poem being read.

We started off the lesson with a simple show of hands.  "Raise your hand if you who Kobe Bryant is."  I had the students that raised their hands share a fact or tidbit about him with the class.  Next, I passed out the poem and the students watched the video while following along with the poem as it was read.  (I know that there is some extra dialogue in the video, but it really seemed to help my students make connections.  With the music, narration, and visuals of the video, several students were in awe.  I think this video is a MUST.)  Students then had the opportunity to turn and talk with a peer about their immediate reaction.  I also had them think about the how video/media elements added to the way that they reacted to it. (To be honest, we talked about the poem for a while because the students had so much they wanted to talk about and also relate to their passions.)  I noticed how the kids wanted to share their own passions, so I thought we could use it as a mentor text for them to write about their own passions.

The students used Dear Basketball as a mentor text by mimicking the writer's craft that Kobe used in his poem. For example:

Dear Teaching, 

From the moment
I stepped into a classroom
for the first time
I knew I had found my calling.

They did an amazing job not only because they had an example to look at, but also because they were writing about something near and dear to them.

Here are some of my student examples:

  My students continue to amaze me with what they are capable of every day. 

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