Writing assignment pays off for Windsor Middle School sixth-graders
February 27, 2013
Joshua Ward’s sixth-grade English writing assignment at Windsor Middle School turned out better than he ever imagined.
Joshua and his classmates were assigned to research a company, leader, author, celebrity, college or a place to visit and write a traditional business letter to that person or place. It’s an assignment that Denise Colberg, sixth-grade English teacher at WMS, has given out to her students for several years.
“I wanted them to be able to write a formal business letter, and the emphasis was on the format, capitalization, punctuation, all the grammar components, as well as the tone of voice,” Colberg said. “I wanted them to be able to research the company, and part of that research was finding the traditional mailing address. They all had to send a traditional business letter through the mail.”
Joshua, 12, wrote a letter to the Wing Shack restaurant in Windsor because he said he loved its chicken wings and french fries. He also wrote that he loved how Wing Shack came up with 12 sauces, and that he thought it was a good idea that there are other items on the menu for people, like his 3-year-old sister, who don’t like wings. He also complimented Wing Shack for having a sauce of the month, and wrote that it was cool that Wing Shack has four restaurants in northern Colorado.
Joshua was hoping to receive a letter back from Wing Shack, but the company one-upped him.
Wing Shack surprised Joshua and his classmates on Feb. 14 with 30 free, boxed lunches from its student special of boneless wings and chips, a value of $6 per box.
“I didn’t know about it until they walked in,” said Joshua, who is a hot sauce fan. “I was really surprised and happy.”
Joshua, who had never written a letter before, said he liked the assignment because when he gets older he’ll know how to properly write letters.
Joshua’s mother, Barb Ward, was on hand when Wing Shack surprised her son and the class.
“He was so excited even just to get a letter back from them,” Barb said. “This is just amazing. It’s so nice that they would take the time and come down and treat the class to wings. He was very excited.”
Barb said she loved the writing assignment, especially in a world that is filled with abbreviated words when texting.
“I think it’s fabulous that they’re learning these kind of skills,” she said.
Colberg said the students in the seven English classes had to draft the letter by hand, do another draft on the computer, and then complete the final copy. They also had to address the envelopes by hand.
“I told kids I don’t get real excited when I get an email, but I love when I have a personal letter in the mail,” Colberg said. “It means so much more. We have companies telling us all the time, ‘Keep doing this because we look for good writing skills with our applicants.’ Even though we’re in an email society, there’s nothing wrong with a good, old-fashioned letter.”
Wing Shack wasn’t the only restaurant to respond to the letters. Mimi’s Cafe in Loveland treated Colberg’s entire fifth-hour class (25 sixth-graders) to lunch (chicken tenders, mashed potatoes and a beverage) on Feb. 13 valued at about $200, after a student wrote a letter to the restaurant.
Mary’s Mountain Cookies brought samples of cookies to one of the classes Thursday, while Qdoba provided gift cards to one of the classes and Nordy’s Bar-B-Que & Grill sent a student a T-shirt, a big jar of barbecue sauce and a letter.
Other students received autographed photos of Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow, a personal letter and autographed photo from University of Florida football coach Will Muschamp, an autographed trading card from Colorado Eagles hockey coach Chris Stewart, as well as other items from college sports teams and companies. Colberg said she’s never received responses from so many restaurants providing free food.
“We’ve had just amazing business support this year,” Colberg said. “We’ve had kids get back something individually before, but never an entire class rewarded for the efforts of the hard work of a student. The kids are so excited for this assignment.”
Windsor Wing Shack manager Adam Kranich said it was special to receive the letter from Joshua.
“It was the cutest thing I’ve seen,” Kranich said. “I had to show it to my marketing person, as well as to the other managers and the owner. Everybody from the store wanted to come down here to meet this kid and the whole class.”
Stephanie Seifried, marketing and public relations manager for Wing Shack, said serving lunch to a class full of sixth-graders was a first.
“This is a unique experience, especially the fact that it was so professionally put together. You could tell they were working on their letter-writing skills,” Seifried said. “We at Wing Shack ask for feedback from our customers at all times whether they email it to us, tell it to us verbally, send us letters. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad. It was really a privilege to kind of have that moment of it being a fabulous letter, and he chose to write to us to tell us how great we are to him in a very unique sort of way.”
Karly Mathern, 11, wrote to Oakley and received a letter and two stickers from the sunglasses and apparel company.
Karly said the assignment was special because she normally doesn’t write letters to people.
“I learned that you always have to know your punctuation,” Karly said.
Braden Martinez, 11, wrote to the Texas Tech football team because he likes the university and would like to play football there someday.
“You have to have very good grammar, punctuation and capitalization to be able to get noticed,” Braden said.
Kira Dickerson, 11, wrote to the chamber of commerce in Norman, Okla., because her uncle lives there.
“I congratulated them on the fact they have a lower housing rate, and that I like their town,” Kira said. “I thought it was very fun that you could pick anywhere in the United States.”