I finally got the chance to use the New Readers Press (1989) book Writing it down: Writing skills for everyday life which was put together "by staff of the Women's Program Lutheran Settlement House Philadelphia, Pennsylvania" (and edited by Teddy Norwich Kempser).
I've always thought this book ought to be useful, but I never seemed to find the right moment to bring it out. (The couple of other times I've tried using it things flopped.) But, recently, somebody asked how to set-up a personal letter. "Just a sec..." I said, and opened the book to page 70, "Personal Letters".
Actually, it was page 71 that worked. The authors offered an example letter to "Dear Linda", and, below, an empty lined form to reproduce it in.
On a bit of a whim, I invited my learner to change the words - i.e., write her own letter - rather than simply reproduce someone else's content. "Write something you might write to a friend," I suggested.
Then I left her alone. She asked how to spell things when necessary. I checked in once or twice to ensure everything was going alright.
K. Fast forward an hour, and she's on Facebook, struggling to write a message to a friend.
I'm talking the "personal message" email-like app here, and not a wall post or photo comment or something. She's struggling with both what to say and how to spell it. "Well," I muse, "you could use that practice letter your wrote earlier."
Face lights up. Gets out scribbler and starts transferring text.
And I make note to self: this wouldn't have been possible if she had simply copied the Lutheran Settlement letter to "Dear Linda."
Authenticity is important.
It's how literacy learning becomes functional.