Ways to Bring Letter Writing Lessons to the Next Level.
Updated: Aug 3, 2020
Writing a letter is somewhat of a lost art with email, text and messaging taking over with students. However, Christmas time is the one time of the year, usually, when your students will be writing meaningful letters to Santa.
NOTE: It goes without saying that you, as their teacher, must find out if all your students celebrate Christmas first. Some religions do not celebrate or acknowledge Christmas and this is a call for you and your school to make.
As I always say: KEEP. IT. FUN. You need a hook and the hook will be to make your own envelope and post the letter to Santa (i.e. you give it to their parents later or if you're sneaky enough and have the energy, you can write back).
Be excited and your students will be too! "Santa's not real Miss!" - sssshhhhh! Let's have fun *pull student aside afterwards and suggest they play along for fun or they could write to their parents instead of Santa*
Firstly, do your students know what a letter is? Do they know what it's used for? Young children have no real reason to write or post a letter any more. Make sure you discuss how a letter is different from an email (Venn Diagram) - mostly because the recipient doesn't get the letter straight away like an email! Explain the journey of a letter and watch a few YouTube videos like this one. A little Geography lesson can be squeezed in here too - such as where do you live and where is the North Pole!
Next, discuss how we use formal and informal greetings. When is 'Hi' appropriate and when is 'Hello' better? Agree, with your students, on which greeting and which closing terms you will use for your letter writing today.
Then, create a modelled example with students. Above is a printed copy I enlarge and use with students, but it really is best to create your own WITH student input. This allows you to see what they know and can do. Keep that modelled example up on your classroom wall so students can return to review it over and over as they write.
Keep your students engaged. Just as you shouldn't talk too long with younger students, make sure you keep the incentive high. Show them the envelopes and remind them they can post their letter when completed (show them your post box... you have one right? Any box painted with a hole in it will do, doesn't need to be fancy).
Now down to the nitty-gritty. Writing the letter. Let students pick some pretty paper (you can find some here) and let students free write so you can see where they need help. Sometimes it's just a matter of them not knowing what to actually write, let alone how to write it. Remind students that 2-3 drafts would be needed before the finished good copy (you could save the pretty paper for that part, it depends on how engaged your students are by this stage).
Students are going to make mistakes, but I don't like to write all over student work with a pen. I prefer to give them some supportive feedback they can actually use in their next draft. Above you can see the first example of writing by a student and the spelling checklist I have given to her to help her rework her writing in her second draft. You can grab these checklists here free if you are a subscriber.
During their next rewrite, you might get the student to focus on another aspect of their writing in addition to the spelling. These writing checklists have come in so handy. I do have a stamp which I adore but... I hate stamping on their work. I prefer to attach a small paper copy they can have handy.. then I can staple all their drafts together with their checklists in one pile to work from. This way you're creating a clear framework for learning and building student success.
When you and the student feel they have done their BEST WORK on their letter, it's time to prepare the envelope. You can do this ahead of time but it is fun to have them precut and folded and let students glue the edges down. Again - student ownership is so important.
Lastly, post that letter!
BOOM! You just squeezed in a Geography lesson and an English lesson into one activity AND the kids enjoyed it. You'll find them asking 'Can I write to my friend!' after this!
If you'd like a copy of the Spelling Checklist, subscribers can grab them free in the Free Resource Library here. If you're not a subscriber yet, you can subscribe here and get access to the freebie library right away!
The writing sheets, envelopes and letter writing anchor charts can be found in the Christmas Writing pack.
The Journey of a Letter poster can be found in the Post Office Dramatic Role Play pack.
Also, the writing checklist is available, along with anchor charts and spacers and other fun activities, in the Writing Sentence Helpers pack.