Dear Abby Lesson Plan

Using advice column letters to help students practice a wide range of skills

Man reading newspaper
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This lesson plan focuses on modeling a lesson on Dear Abby, written by Abigail Van Burenin, in order to practice a wide range of English skills including reading, vocabulary extension, writing, and pronunciation. It's a fun exercise that helps students practice concepts they have learned in class and is suitable for upper intermediate to advanced level students.

Introduction to Dear Abby

For those of you who have never heard of Dear Abby, Dear Abby is an advice column in the United States which is syndicated in many newspapers throughout the country.

People from all walks of life write in with their problems - family, financial, but mostly relationships - to ask for advice from Dear Abby. Writers usually sign the letters to Dear Abby with a descriptive phrase such as "Hoping to feel better soon" or "Looking for an answer". "Abby" then replies to the letters with sound advice that is usually quite reasonable, even for very complicated situations.

Why Advice Columns in Class?

Using advice columns in class allows students have quite a bit of fun with some crazy - or not so crazy - situations while, at the same time, practicing some very high level skills and integrating quite a lot of new vocabulary related to relationships, family life, etc. I have found students enjoy themselves. However, they also feel challenged as they will need to communicate in both written and spoken form.

Lesson Outline

Aim: Practice reading, writing, and pronunciation with special focus on giving advice

Activity: Reading, then creating and finally presenting and commenting orally on advice column letters

Level: Upper intermediate to advanced

Outline

  • Begin by introducing advice columns by asking students whether they have ever read an advice column. If they are unfamiliar with this term, describe a typical reader letter and advice response as most students will be familiar with this type of column.
  • Read or show the students an example "Dear Abby" letter provided as an example at the bottom of this page.
  • Split students into pairs.
  • Visit Dear Abby online and present a few letters and responses to your student. It's best if you use a projector in class, but using one or more computers can work as well.
  • Ask each pair to read both the reader letter and the response of different columns. Students should take note of new vocabulary and expressions to share with the rest of the class.
  • Once students understand their advice column, have them switch partners and each partner should explain the basic problem and response of the advice letter they read.
  • After students have worked through their readings, list new vocabulary and discuss idiomatic usage with the entire class.
  • Have each student write their own advice column letter. Go around the room helping the students with grammar and vocabulary issues.
  • Once everyone has written their advice column letter, quickly review the concept of stress and intonation as a means of improving pronunciation skills.
  • Ask students to mark up their letter by underlining content words to help with pronunciation.
  • Have each student read their advice column letter to the class. Students should then choose an "Abby" to provide suggestions on their issue.
  • If students have difficulty in understanding, request that the letter in question be reread by the student to the class.

Advice Column Letters

Worried about Love

Dear ...:

I don't know what to do! My boyfriend and I have been dating for over two years, but I feel like he doesn't really love me. He rarely asks me out anymore: We don't go to restaurants, or shows. He doesn't buy me even the smallest of presents. I love him, but I think he's taking me for granted. What should I do? - Worried About Love

Response

Dear Worried About Love:

I think it's clear from your description that your boyfriend doesn't really love you. Two years is not such a long time to be dating, and the fact that he treats you like a toy he can ignore speaks volumes about his true feelings. Get out of the relationship as fast as you can!

There are many more wonderful men out there who will appreciate, and treasure your love - don't waste it on an oaf who clearly has no clue as to your worth!

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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Dear Abby Lesson Plan." ThoughtCo, Apr. 2, 2017, thoughtco.com/dear-abby-lesson-plan-1209972. Beare, Kenneth. (2017, April 2). Dear Abby Lesson Plan. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/dear-abby-lesson-plan-1209972 Beare, Kenneth. "Dear Abby Lesson Plan." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/dear-abby-lesson-plan-1209972 (accessed November 18, 2017).