Writing a letter is an art form that is no longer appreciated, in my opinion.
I tasked my 11 yr old, 5th grade son to write Thank You cards to family and friends that had given him birthday gifts. I was aware that he would not know how to address them properly, hence he would write the note and I would address the envelope. I was wrong. He did not know how to write a note either. They were basic, non-specific letters that had no names to or from anyone. I was a bit upset but then had the self-reflecting thought…this is not his fault. Was he taught how to write a letter? Has he seen many letters?
Teacher Mom began the “How to Write a Letter 101” lesson right then and there. He listened, watched, and asked questions and after a few minutes was able to correct his mistakes and complete his letters. The plan then struck me to teach my 6th graders this same skill. Anything you do when done for real is a far more enriching lesson, so I decided to find pen pals for my students in order for them to write real letters to a real person.
Here is the plan which I am sure will be tweaked and adapted as the year progresses but I have to start somewhere so therefore my plan…
- Find teachers that are willing to commit to having their students accept and write at least 3 letters to my students. I am looking for any students grades 4th-8th (since 6th is right in the middle). Students from all over the country and globe. Complete Google Form –> HERE After completion, I while contact teachers with my school address and contact information.
- Have teachers send an initial postcard from their school’s city/location to me with contact info and address. I will have students choose pen pals based on the postcard. Depending on how many I receive each student will have their own, complete in pairs, or small groups. (I am so hoping for over 100 post cards so each student will have one)
- Have students complete a minimum of 3 letters throughout the school year. Friendly introduction, persuasive, informational about location and school, fun letter with clues and puzzles to solve, or interview are some possibilities I am considering for letter types.
- Hold conferences with students to discuss and reflect on writing process for letters.
- Mystery Skype with classes in which a pen pal resides without letting the student pen pals know, until the location is guessed. (Then allow pen pals to talk f2f)
This may seem overwhelming and expensive for all those stamps but I think it can be a very rewarding and engaging project for students. Plus, it would foster national and global connections that many students do not have access to. Students need to see and hear about events and people outside their own four walls.
If this is something you think you may be interested in and are a classroom teacher of students between 4th- 8th grade please complete the Google Form. I will be sharing this with those who complete so that you can also connect with each other in order to have post card pen pals with all classes participating. Please pass this along or share with a teacher that you think would be interested in this project.