This Letter is All Business
Lesson 3 of 10
Objective: TSWBAT write an effective business letter supporting point of view with reasons an information.
Why write a business letter? This is the first concept the students need to understand. There are lots of reasons, but three main ones that will make sense to the kids are: A letter of request; A letter of complaint; A letter of application. We require the kids to write letters to the Chamber of Commerce in the states assigned for their state reports requesting information. These days, the child will most likely receive a postcard directing them to the website, but it's still good practice. A letter of complaint can be fun to create from the imagination and even easier to do if there's an authentic gripe. In the brainstorming section, I make note of my own letter of complaint and its end result. Although not the letter they'll write today, letters of application should be mentioned as what they'll write when they're applying to a college. See if any of them then relate this to the business letters they'll need to write when they apply for a job some day.
The Letter Generator from the National Council for the Teachers of English (NCTE)'s readwritethink department is an engaging manner in which to introduce the writing of a business letter. The students interact with the generator by helping to complete the components. I like to pick classroom sticks for the sections that need names filled in because all of the kids want to participate. Next, we make up an address for the Heading, and use the school for the Inside Address. Together, we write a business letter by following the prompts.
They have a worksheet of a business letter, with the parts labeled, at their desk so they will copy right along as the letter is being generated on the Smart Board or screen.
Now that they've practiced the writing of a business letter as a class they're closer to creating their own. In order to write a great letter, they must decide on just what business to contact. Using personal experience is an effective way to help them make that decision.
I had an incident as a teen that inspired me to write an official letter to PepsiCo. (Indignation is a good motivator for letter writing, of course.) Putting my feelings into a carefully constructed letter to the company inadvertantly led to a full sized Pepsi truck driving right down my driveway one afternoon to deliver a couple of cases of complimentary Pepsi.
This true story leaves the kids with two impressions: First, that a well-written letter is a powerful way for a person of any age to get their point across; Second, you never know what surprises may occur after you write a letter!
Using the web cluster organizer is a great way to assure that the kids organize their thoughts. Although we discussed the purpose of a business letter at length, by writing out the various reasons, the concept may gel better, and most kids will have no trouble filling out the web. As they brainstorm, all of the ideas will be right there in front of them which will hopefully be an aide in settling on which type to write.
As they complete their web, I walk around to see what they're coming up with and offer ideas I think would interest them. Kids always seem to tell me random things and it can come in handy. Earlier in the week, one of my kids said the jeans her mom bought online weren't what she ordered. She was having trouble coming up with her topic and I said, "Your mom's jeans issue is a great example of what kind of business letter you can use. Think of what your mom would write." It helped her get started. She ultimately changed her mind after coming up with something else, but it was a catalyst in getting her to think.
After deciding on their idea, it's time to write the letter! Depending upon the type of letter: Letter of Request, Letter of Complaint,, or something different, they will need to include specific information to help make it effective.
Letter of Request (Ex: Chamber of Commerce):
Politely state the reason why you are writing. I'm collecting information to include in my state report...
Give them an idea of the information you're looking for. Do you have any pamphlets, stickers, or interesting materials about the symbols or history of your state...
Ask any questions you think are relevant. In your opinion, do people enjoy living in your state? What is your weather like at this time of year...
Follow up in the final paragraph with a sincere thank you for their help. I really appreciate the time you took to answer my questions and help with my report...
Letter of Complaint (Ex: Dvd broken in transit):
Give information about the product ordered or issue at hand. I hope you have more Island of the Blue Dolphins dvds in stock. It's the version from 1964...
Politely state the issue or situation. I ordered this dvd online from your company, but it was in two pieces when it arrived...
Let them know if you have any ideas of how this can be avoided in the future. The dvd arrived in a regular envelope without any bubble wrap. In the future, I suggest carefully packing it...
Conclude your letter by asking them to remedy the situation. Please send me a second copy of the dvd at no charge, as soon as possible...
The Business Letter Template attached to this section is actually a template for a letter of complaint.
Once they have decided on the type of letter they want to write, it's not too hard to get them going. Real life examples, meaning things that they actually would like to say, or have issues with will make this lesson easier for any of the students. I encourage them to think hard about different events or concerns that have come up in their own lives in order to help them write with authentic meaning. This also gives them purpose. I love to encourage the students to write legitimate letters so that they may actually receive responses. It's fun to get letters back to share with the class.
For the kids who absolutely can't come up with an idea, I tell them to think of a change they'd like to make to the school, or a compliment about the school they could share with the principal. In both of these topics the business is Desert Canyon Elementary and the letter will be written in business format, even though they could walk it down to the office. This idea makes the assignment a doable one for even the most reluctant student.