Family Resources on Advice Column, Part 2
Project and Purpose
Students assume the role of advice columnists and write a response to a letter seeking advice.
How is writing an advice column response an exercise in empathy?
Note: This is part 2 of a two-part lesson. Students should be familiar with letter writing.
If this lesson was used in the classroom: Students learned about how consider the perspective of others and offer advice to another’s problem. In class students used the format of writing an answer for an advice column to help others (this is the 2nd of a two part lesson).
Getting Ready for the Conversation
Everyone deals with problems and obstacles that they must face throughout life, but for many people it is difficult to understand how to help others with effective communication. Students who learn how to communicate problems and offer solutions will be able to develop stronger relationships with others.
Conversation Starters and Practice at Home
The first item is for follow-up after participating in class activities.
Tell about the advice response you wrote in class. Why did you choose to offer the advice you did? Did you offer the best advice possible? Why or why not?
Is it possible to offer advice in a way that the person you are communicating with becomes angry or upset? Describe how this could happen?
Have you ever offered helpful advice to a friend? What was it? Why was it effective (or ineffective)?
What are some rules you could think of about communicating effectively when there are problems with others? Why are these good rules?
School to Home Resources on Advice Column, Part 2
- Copies or slide of advice column examples (provided in part 1 of lesson)
- Paper or computers with writing programs and access to printers
1. Review the information about advice columns from the previous session and ask if anyone has any questions so far.
2. Post the word EMPATHY and ask students to define the word. They should come up with any/all of the following: the ability or capacity to share and/or understand feelings and experiences of others; understanding or feeling what another person experiences; able to put oneself in another’s position; walking in another person’s shoes; being able to imagine what it would be like to be in another person’s situation. Make sure students understand that empathy is NOT sympathy which is feeling sorry for someone but not necessarily experiencing the same emotions.
3. Ask students how empathy helps advice columnists write their responses to letters. What do they think the columnist does to empathize with their writers?
4. Offer the following possibilities for practicing empathy to their list of ideas:
- Read the letter carefully and identify the problem and the situation presented.
- Make sure you understand both sides of the problem.
- Imagine yourself in the same position as the writer. What would you be feeling? What would you be thinking?
- Take a moment to think about how the words you choose to write and how the solutions you present show you care.
- Come up with at least two possible pieces of advice. One might be very challenging for the person who wrote the letter, such as having them ask themselves a difficult question or apologize to the other person in the conflict. The other might be something they can do to make themselves feel better
5. Take out your example letter and read it or post it on a screen for the class to read. Go through the steps of empathy to craft a response to the letter. Talk out a possible response letter that you would write as an advice columnist.
6. Randomly distribute letters from the previous session, one per student, making sure that students receive a letter that they did not originally write. Their task is to use the empathy steps to write a response with advice to the writer to help them solve their issue.
7. Give students time to work on their letters.
8. Ask volunteers to share their letters and advice column responses, being sure to notice the elements of empathy used in their responses.
Ask students to discuss: How is writing an advice column response an exercise in empathy?
Consider posting the letters and advice columns next to each other on a bulletin board.