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Providing the perfect cover

You are lying in bed, throat burning, body shivering, and you must set some meaningful work for your pupils. Here is a task I have devised which works with Years 7, 8 or 9. Pupils have to write a personal letter to their English teacher to cheer them up, as they are not well. Their letters must provide laughter and help a speedy recovery.

The lesson could begin with the cover teacher discussing experiences of writing and receiving personal letters. Specific instructions could include: letters must be planned; pupils need to work out what to have in each paragraph, and the first and last paragraphs should be about their teachers otherwise the pupils could come across as being self-centred.

Most personal letters are six or seven paragraphs long and are chatty in tone.

Letters may include puzzles such as crosswords, word searches or anagrams; gossip; jokes; poems; comic strips; reviews of recent films, books, DVDs or TV programmes; lyrics; an account of the pupil's day so far, or illustrations.

Pupils need to write a rough version before making changes. They should be reminded that the sender's voice should be heard in a personal letter and how such a letter should be set out, and that it needs to be written on plain paper (the cover teacher will need paper clips and bold-lined paper to put under the plain paper as a guide).

Letters should be put in an envelope and sent to the teacher who, hopefully, will be able to comment on them in person during the next lesson or, if they are still unwell, write a letter to the class.

Patrick Higgins

Teacher of English, Trinity Catholic School, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

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