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The Personal Touch: A Lesson in Expository Writing Lesson Plan

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Lesson Plan #:AELP-WCP002
Author: Trudy Stillwell White, St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Date: May 1994

Grade Level(s): 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12


  • Language Arts/Writing (composition)


Human beings use hand-to-hand touch between individuals to convey a wide range of affective communication. This lesson uses examples of such communication as a springboard for practice in expository writing.


In addition to providing an opportunity to practice clarity and thoroughness in writing, students are made aware of some of the subtle non-verbal messages in common social situations involving hand touching.



  • Students will understand that much of what we say to one another is communicated without words.
  • Students will reflect on the meanings of some common non-verbal messages communicated through the way we touch each other’s hands.
  • Students and teacher will experience a moment of personal communication.
  • Cognitive:

  • Students will express their thoughts in clear, grammatically correct sentences organized into coherent paragraphs.
  • Students will use descriptive words and phrases to describe physical actions and sensations.
  • Students will use feeling words to convey emotional reactions.
  • Students will share their writing with each other.

  • The teacher will explain that a simple, familiar interpersonal exchange such as a handshake can convey a number of different messages and that she is going to go around the room demonstrating. The teacher then approaches each student and, without saying anything, touches each one’s hand in a different way. For example, one student may receive a power handshake, another a limp one. She may give one a High Five and do a hand jive with another. She may simply hold a student’s hand like a little child holds the hand of an adult. She may grasp the wrist of another student as if helping him to stand, or link pinkies and swing hands playfully. The possibilities are numerous!
  • Students are then instructed to write about their experience as clearly as possible so that a reader of their paragraph(s) could demonstrate the touch the writer has received. Encourage them to write about how the touch made them feel as well as a description of the actual physical action.
  • Students read each other’s finished paragraphs and attempt to replicate the touch described. Remind them to use the written word only and no remembered visual clues. Allow ample time for revisions if needed – and they will be!
  • Ask for volunteers to demonstrate their finished products for the class.
  • Follow with a class discussion and sharing. It will be lively!

    This is a great exercise to do early in the year, as it provides the teacher with a vehicle for personal interaction with each student. Students ordinarily respond quite positively, seem to enjoy the personal touch, and love to talk animatedly about their experience. Even when the rare student reacts negatively, the teacher acquires a better understanding of that individual. It is usually best to limit the touch to that which will leave the student with a positive experience, especially if done before teacher/class bonds have been established.

    May 1994 These lesson plans are the result of the work of the teachers who have attended the Columbia Education Center’s Summer Workshop. CEC is a consortium of teachers from 14 western states dedicated to improving the quality of education in the rural, western United States, particularly the quality of math and science Education. CEC uses Big Sky Telegraph as the hub of their telecommunications network that allows the participating teachers to stay in contact with their trainers and peers that they have met at the Workshops.