“What would you say to your 16- year- old self if you had the chance?” That’s what 75 celebrities were asked and they wrote a letter expressing their thoughts. Dear Me Letters is a book that collects those letters.As a kind of follow-up, its website extended the idea to the public and allows readers to submit their own letters.
The Guardian published an extract from the book in an interactive article in the online version of the paper.
It is very interesting to read about the insecurities and suffering of people who would become so successful in life. And It is a very good source for an activity with (very) advanced students.You need to have a very relaxed atmosphere in class as well, and be sure that talking about the past won’t upset anybody.
Ask your students the same question: “What would you tell your old self if you had the chance? What would you have changed?”.
Tell them about the book. In groups, each student reads one or two letters from The Guardian (print them or let them read them on their phones/tablets). Then, they have to share information about all the advice given in their letters and ellaborate a list of traits all teenagers seem to have in common.
Tell them they are going to listen to a radio programma about Dear Me, featuring the editor of the book, Joseph Galliano. You can play the whole recording or concentrate on the first 4 minutes, when Galliano reads his letter to his old 16 self.
The students take notes and compare what they heard with the list they have written from the other letters.
As it might be too personal to ask students to write a letter of the same kind, ask them to write a letter to someone from the past or from the future.
To illustrate the idea, play this video, in which Stephen Fry talks about letters. He is asked three questions:
- What letter either sent or received had an impact in your life?
- To whom would you write a letter now including someone form the past or future?
- Why is it important to keep writing letters?
Before they watch it, students answer the questions themselves in groups.
(The interview was filmed at Letters Live at the Southbank on World Book Night, in aid of The Reading Agencywriting )
An alternative to writing a letter to someone from the past or the future can be writing a letter addresed to themselves in the future. They can write a real letter o an email to FutureMe.org. This website is based on the principle that “memories are less accurate than e-mails”, so they invite you to write an email reminding your future self of whatever you want to remember . And then they’ll do “some time travel magic and deliver the letter to you. FutureYou, that is.”
You can write it as a private email to your own self or make it public (but anonymous), which will be included in the “public letters” section.