I think it has finally sunk in that keeping things simple always pays off. I know we're supposed to scaffold as much as we can, but sometimes it's still easy to forget exactly what the kids CAN do and what needs to be explained. So this is what happened today - it's a good story I was subbing for a week. The teacher - as usually - gave me a lot of freedom. She suggested for them to watch a movie on Friday, but I don't feel comfortable to have them just sit and watch. P says it's supposed to be tied to curriculum and I agree with her. So we watched Radio (PG movie) the whole week, drew a plot diagram, defined and discussed elements of the plot and focused on conflicts and resolution throughout the movie. At the end, today they were to write a letter to a character. So this is what I did and it worked out so wonderful. I gave them specific choices (choose between 2 characters) and include specific things such as: introduce yourself, tell him why you're writing to him, mention a positive, mention a conflict, how it got resolved, ask a question, etc. Then I wrote a letter myself as an example, and labeled everything to show they were included. I even managed to sneak in vocabulary word requirements as extra credit. Explained everything, let the students use my example, even use some sentences if they needed and... Every single student has written wonderful, thoughtful letters, they far exceeded my expectations. I feel so good about this. I could have thought that 'sure, they know how to write a letter', but I gave them guidelines and an example as a crutch and it was just perfect. I need to remember this concept.