Instructions for Classroom Teachers for the 2014 Do The Write Thing Challenge
Thank you for involving your 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students in the 2014 Do the Write Thing Challenge. All across America, students like yours are rising to the challenge of doing something to end violence among young people. The Challenge gives middle school students an opportunity to examine the impact of violence on their lives and communicate in writing what they think should be done to change our culture of violence. Personal responsibility is emphasized. By encouraging students to make personal commitments to do something about the problem, the program ultimately seeks to give them the opportunity to break the cycles of violence in their homes, schools and neighborhoods. Your involvement and support are crucial to the success of the Challenge in your school.
Please review the following materials concerning program rules, entry deadlines, selection criteria, classroom discussion, and student recognition before presenting the program to your students.
The following guidelines for the preparation of student writings have been distributed to all participating superintendents, principals and teachers:
- Students may use any form of written expression (e.g. essays, poems, plays or songs) as long as the language is positive and not derogatory. Students may submit only one entry per year. All entries must be the work of only one student.
- Student entries, at minimum, should address three questions: How has violence affected my life? What are the causes of youth violence? What can I do about youth violence? Writings that do not address these questions will not be advanced in the judging process.
- Entries should be approximately 500 to 1000 words in length. Written forms of expression, such as poetry that, by their nature, may be shorter, may contain fewer than 500 words.
- Entries must be typed or written legibly in black ink on 8 1/2" x 11" paper. Only one side of the paper may be used and the pages should be numbered.
- Entries must be in English.
- If an entry is fiction, it must be identified as so.
- If the student participant uses a quotation or another person's material in his or her entry, the entry must identify whose work is being used by citing the person's name or citing the source of the material. Writings based upon plagiarism will not be advanced in the selection process.
- Entries must have a "Cover Sheet" with the consent statement signed by the participating student and a parent or guardian. No personal information should appear on the body of the written entry. Entries without a signed Cover Sheet will not be advanced in the selection process. (See the attached Cover Sheet.doc with the Student and Parent/Guardian Consent Statement.)
- Entries must be submitted in the form that they are received from the student writer. Editing for content, grammar or spelling by someone other than the student is not permitted. 1
All entries with a Cover Sheet attached must be collected by participating teachers and submitted to the DtWT school coordinator in his or her principal's office by no later than 5:00 PM on Friday, February 21, 2014. All DtWT school coordinators must submit their school's entries to the DtWT school system coordinator by no later than 5:00 PM on Friday, February 28, 2014.
Entries will be reviewed by a panel of judges selected by your jurisdiction’s Do the Write Thing Committee, the coalition of business, community and governmental leaders that oversees and administers the Challenge in your area. Entries will be judged on the basis of content, originality and responsiveness to the three questions: How has violence affected my life? What are the causes of youth violence? What can I do about youth violence? Grammar and spelling will not be used as criteria for judging the entries.
In their writings, students should be encouraged to describe what they feel are the causes of youth violence and to offer specific suggestions about what they as individuals can do to reduce violence in their homes, schools and neighborhoods. Personal responsibility for responding to the problem of youth violence should be emphasized. Students should be encouraged to share personal experiences about the impact of violence on their lives and the lives of their peers. The panel of judges in your area will be looking at how well your students present their views on these matters.
(1) Teachers, please send us the writings and the Cover Sheets of all of the students who submit an entry. In this program, everybody who makes a good-faith effort to participate deserves to be recognized and have his or her work considered in the selection process.
Classroom discussion is not mandatory for participation in the Challenge.
However, over the years we have found that students and their teachers gain much from the connections that can result from the exchanges about the impact of youth violence that occur in pre-writing classroom discussions. Teachers have indicated that they are amazed at the openness and honesty of these classroom discussions. They report that these discussions present excellent opportunities to identify and prevent youth problems before they reach crisis proportions.
Many of the teachers whose classes have participated in the Challenge in the past have invited outside speakers knowledgeable about youth violence issues to lead pre-writing discussions. Other teachers have provided their students with selected readings or newspaper articles about violence in advance of the discussion to stimulate thought. Speakers or articles, which emphasize personal responsibility on the part of students for responding to the problem of violence, have proven to be particularly useful.
Below are some questions designed to generate discussion among your students before they prepare their entries for the Challenge.
Questions to Consider:
- How does violence affect your daily lives?
- Where are you confronted by violence? Your home? Your school? Your neighborhood?
- What are some of the causes of youth violence in your community?
- What can you as an individual do to reduce youth violence in your community?
Also available for use in classroom discussions is a power-point presentation on the history of the relationship between the U.S. and Kuwait, which includes the establishment of the primary sponsor of the Do the Write Thing Challenge Program, the Kuwait-America Foundation.
Common Core State Standards
As of August 2011, Do the Write Thing has been reviewed by a panel of highly qualified public school teachers. The Challenge has been aligned to meet all of the English Language Arts Standards in Writing for Grades 7 and 8. (Standards W.7.1 through W.7.10 and W.8.1 through W.8.10.) Please note that we have determined Standards W.7.2 and W.8.2 to only be applicable to nonfiction submissions.
Each jurisdiction participating in the Challenge has established a Do the Write Thing Committee to coordinate the program. A “jurisdiction” may be a city, a county, a city-county combination or even an entire state. A complete listing of participating localities can be found on the National Campaign to Stop Violence website. Most Do the Write Thing Committees will organize a recognition ceremony to honor the boy and girl from each participating middle school who submit the best entries. 2 The"School Ambassadors" from each school, the students' parents, teachers and principal will be invited to attend the recognition ceremony. Most Do the Write Thing Committees will also publish the writings of all their "School Ambassadors" and distribute the publication to area community, business and governmental leaders. 3
Each Do the Write Thing Committee will designate two “National Ambassadors” - the boy and girl from the jurisdiction who submit the most thought provoking entries for the 2014 Challenge. The two National Ambassadors along with each student’s teacher and one parent or guardian will be invited by the National Campaign to Stop Violence to attend the Do the Write Thing Challenge National Recognition Week activities in Washington, DC in June of 2014. In addition, one representative of the jurisdiction’s middle school system will be invited to the National Recognition Week activities. Where a jurisdiction has more than one middle school system, the selection of the middle school representative will be made by the jurisdiction’s Do the Write Thing Committee Chair.
Travel costs for each jurisdiction’s “official delegation” to the National Recognition Week activities will be paid by our primary sponsor, the Kuwait-America Foundation, Southwest Airlines, the National Campaign to Stop Violence or the jurisdiction’s Do the Write Thing Committee.
During past National Recognition Weeks, Challenge National Ambassadors have met with the Attorney General of the United States and Members of Congress to discuss the problem of youth violence. In addition, our students have been honored at embassy receptions hosted by the Ambassador to the United States from the State of Kuwait. At last year’s National Recognition Ceremony at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, our National Ambassadors read excerpts from their writings to a gathering of national, community, political and business leaders. In addition, a book containing the students' writings was placed in the Library of Congress.
Please complete the enclosed teacher survey (pdf) as soon as your students have submitted their writings to you and send it to the National Campaign to Stop Violence, 2021 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. The National Campaign and its Do the Write Thing Committees need this information to administer the Challenge.
(2) Schools with fewer than twenty-five entries will be grouped together for review and School Ambassador selection purposes.
(3) While all Do the Write Thing Committees are encouraged to hold local recognition ceremonies and publish books of student ambassador writings, and while most local Do the Write Thing Committees do undertake these activities, the responsibility for organizing and funding these functions rests with each local Committee. Some start-up Committees do not initiate these functions during their first year of operation.
(4) Jurisdictions must have at least 500 student writings to qualify for participation in the National Recognition Week activities in Washington.