The Functions of a Friendly Letter
Lesson 2 of 10
Objective: TSWBAT construct a clear and coherent friendly letter.
Friendly letters are a good place to start. Fifth grade kids have been writing these for many years. Email and various social media may have changed our communication tactics, but friendly letters are a personal and necessary skill to posess, even if school is the most likely place for the writing to happen.
A friendly letter requires important components of a letter such as the Heading, Greeting, Body, Closing, and Signature. It's the body that's fun to write. Using the Letter Generator for Friendly Letters as an example, the students help you plug in the information as a class. We've had Smart Boards in our classrooms for four years, so these kids are used to what they can do. When I introduced the Letter Generator, it was received with unusual excitement. As simple as it is, there was something about it that made them all want to try. With the fast and furious new technology all around, this took me by surprise, but I was thrilled. Fortunately, there is also a Business Letter choice in the generator to be used in the next lesson.
I pick class sticks to use for the names of who the letter is to and from, and a made up address for the Heading. Write a generic letter on the Smart Board or screen with the class, then display the final form. The kids have a worksheet with the basic components of the Friendly Letter displayed so they can copy at the same time. In our example, it's easy to see that the final form needs some work when it comes to spacing, and especially adding text. The kids really enjoy the way it works, and it's easy to hear their excitement in the background as they watch. They can't wait to try it out on their own when we visit the computer lab! In the video, we typed up all but the closing and signature ahead, which would have been laborious for a viewer to watch, but I videotaped the student as we wrapped it up.
Brainstorming a Friendly Letter does not take as much time as with a Business Letter. The kids generally know who they'd like to communicate with and will jump into a letter easily. Even so, you may have those kids who'd rather a little help or can't decide.
Questions to get them thinking:
Who is important to you?
Who haven't you seen in a long time, and would love to hear from?
Are there any cousins, friends from camp, kids in your old school you'd like to write to?
Have you ever had a pen-pal? If you'd like to write a letter to a pen-pal, but don't know who it should be simply write, "Dear 5th grade friend," as the Greeting.
The students will use a Brainstorming Web to help in their selection of a recipient. This particular resource is a very helpful one to the students, as they begin organzing their friendly letter possibilities. They also enjoy filling out the Cluster Web Organizer.
The Friendly Letter Organizer template will lead the class through the Friendly Letter from paragraph to paragraph with prompts to stimulate ideas:
Asking about a friend's well-being...
Inquiring about what they've been up to...
Explaining why you're writing them a letter...
Share a good story about what's been going on in your life...
Describe things you like to do...
Tell about a book you just read or movie you just saw...
Ask them some questions about their life...
Thank them for _______, if applicable...
I tell them to remember friendly letters they received, and how much they enjoyed the interesting, entertaining ones. Opening a short friendly letter isn't as much fun as one filled with colorful information and ideas. Some students didn't finish this letter in its final form during the class period, and in my class there weren't enough students needing extra time to warrant another day in the classroom. I assigned the final draft for homework.
Most of these letters are written to friends in school or neighbors. Although I make a copy for their writing folders, I don't monitor whether or not these letters are sent out. As always, if a child requests that their letter be sent in the mail, I'm happy to do so.
This is an activity that nearly all students feel comfortable and successful with. Given the freedom to write to a friend, it's something that comes pretty naturally, and it's nice to watch the letters develop. Once I determine that a student has written a clear and coherent letter, I know they've met the objective.