What voice would be most effective in writing a complaint to the mayor, or another city official, a teacher, a principal, or a manufacturer? The students’ first reaction might be that the personal voice should be used. Have the class suggest some “beefs” against any of the above, or for younger children, against parents. Topics of the following type can be suggested:
To Mayor Daniels: We need more parks/police/protection/schools
To the school superintendent: We need more realistic curricula/ AfroAmerican male teachers/community involvement in schools
A topic the students suggest as a “joke,” such as “unload the cardboard pizza for school lunches,” “give us more vacations, parties, dances,” “pay us for doing homework,” etc. would supply great bases for your efforts to make them form rational and convincing arguments rather than tirades.
Have the class compose a letter in the first person and you might find that it reads as a personal attack or a list of gripes. Go with this for a while, but lead the children into a discussion about how they would react if they were to receive this letter. Once they come to the realization that they have written fighting words they will be ready to rework it together to change the tone of the letter. To do this they should probably once again begin the letter with the personal voice to relate their personal experiences with the issue, but to move to the third person, the more objective voice, to enumerate the difficulties of the status quo. Finally, but probably most important, they should be led to make suggestions for the implementation of these ideas. By writing this group letter the class will come to understand, with your help and explanation, that words in the third person can be more convincing because they are removed from accusatory “I’s” and “you’s” as the issues themselves receive the class’ attention.