Writing to Ourselves: Using the Epistolary Form for Reflection and Dreaming

Description: I found this activity very effective with my students in juvenile detention. Sometimes students have been hesitant to share so I wasn’t sure what their response would be, but some of the best writing of the semester came out of this activity.


Why do we write letters (or emails) to people? (10 minutes)


Brainstorm together on the board. 


Some answers: to ask questions, to get information, to share about our experiences, to tell stories, to compliment or thank them, to express ourselves, to connect


Look at examples by other teenagers of poems written as letters (see attachment) and discuss together (10 minutes)


Write a letter to either your Past, Present, or Future Self. In each poem, you will utilize reflection (30 minutes)


In writing to your past self, you might reflect on what you felt and did in the past. You can talk about people or things you miss or regrets you have about things you wish you did differently. You can also express gratitude to that past self for getting you here. Do you need to ask forgiveness of your past self? For what?


In writing to your present self, you can reflect on where you are in this moment of time. What is important to you now in this very moment? What do you want to say to yourself right now? What words do you most need to hear?


In writing to your future self, you can project out into the future of what you know you will be doing. What do you want to be doing? Imagine yourself into doing your wildest dreams. Or you can say what you hope will be happening.


Notes: In class, I also gave students the option of writing to an abstract idea like anger, love, fear, heartbreak, peace, joy, etc. My experience was most students enjoyed writing to themselves and in particular, their past self. I’m constantly vacillating between giving students more options or more structure based on the group. Which is to say, this activity could be opened up more or specific (Write to your past self) based on the needs of the class.


Time to share with group (10 min)


Closing of class




Theme: Writing an epistolary letter/poem to our past, present, and future selves. Pedagogical goals: To think about form and remaking existing forms into a poem. To employ reflection.

Education Level: 

Junior High
High School




Lesson Plan

Time Frame: 

60 minutes

Required Materials: 

Paper, pencils

Lesson Plan: