Handwriting personal letters has become a lost art for many young people in this age of texts, e-mails and webcams. Consider a pen-pal exchange to help students learn the enjoyment of sending and receiving friendly letters. Include letter-writing in classroom units on penmanship, communication methods or U.S. history. In lieu of the traditional, "What I did on my vacation" essays or standard book reports, instruct students to write a letter to a friend describing their vacation or a book they've read.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
Things you need
- Sample letters
- Poster board
- Letter template worksheets
- Stationery and writing implements
Talk to the students about how friends communicated with each other before texting, instant messaging and e-mails. Show them examples of friendly letters from references such as the Letter Writing Guide (letterwritingguide.com) or The Writing Lover's Website (writing-lovers.com), or your personal collection.
Make a large poster diagram of the elements in a friendly letter: the date, salutation, body, closing, and signature. Describe each element to the students and use the poster to teach them the correct sequence of these elements in a friendly letter.
Create a template worksheet for a friendly letter with blank lines for the students to fill in. Direct them to complete the worksheets by supplying the relevant information. Education.com and ReadWriteThink (readwritethink.org) offer printable worksheets with several ideas already entered to help the students complete a letter correctly. Collect and grade the worksheets and return them to the students. Review them in class, reminding the students of what information belongs in each section.
Give each student stationery and a pen or pencil to write an actual letter. Explain that writing the letters by hand, rather than on a computer, makes them more personal. Tell them it is also a chance to practice their penmanship.
Direct the students to write the letter to a friend their own age or a relative. Give the students a choice of three or four themes for their letters: their experience at summer camp, describing a favourite book or movie, or how much they enjoyed a recent class field trip, for example. Tell the students their letters must include all the elements in the diagram, in the correct sequence.
Read several of the letters out loud to the class without revealing the writer's identity. Identify the types of words and phrases that make the letters interesting to a reader. Ask the students to help suggest ideas to improve future letters. Mail the letters.
Propose a letter-writing exchange with pen pals from another state. Help the students research and safely establish the connections with peers from far away. Continue the letter-writing exchange during the school year. Review the students' letters throughout the year to recommend changes, praise improvement and ensure the content is appropriate.
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