From a previous lesson for the book, A Letter to Amy by Ezra Jack Keats, the children wrote letters to their families to retell the story. The children were quite excited that we were actually mailing these letters to their homes. Once the letters arrived at the houses, the children came in with all sorts of comments from their families. One family went to the local library to check out the book so that they could see what it was all about. The reaction was so terrific that the children begged to do it again.
It is important to give children a purpose for writing. This lesson is helping them to discover that writing is a way of communication. We will refer back to that lesson to complete this small group lesson. We talk about how their parents felt to get a letter from them, and how the children themselves feel to get mail. I ask the group if they remember the different parts of a letter and why those parts are important for communicating. To remind them, I posted a chart and replayed a video created by a classroom teacher in North Carolina.
Boys and girls, it has come to my attention that many of your parents have been getting mail from the school--who wrote those letters? You did, of course--they are the letters we sent out on Friday. What was the reaction from your families? Raise your hand if you think you would like to do some more letter writing. Today's lesson is going to get you prepared to do just that.
Before we get started though, I need to know how many of you remember the parts of a letter. Look at our chart of the boy: Heading, Greeting, Body, Closing, Signature. Let's practice our song so that we can learn the correct order before writing.
Prior to working with the groups, I have printed photos of the children with their names written on the front. To determine to whom each child writes, I have put the photos in a bag and the children picks one out of the bag. In my class, there are certain students that get chosen more than others by their peers. By making the selection random, everyone has the same chance to pick their friends or another classmate. I have a letter template printed out, but the children must fill in most of it on their own. The degree in which I help depends on the ability level of the groups. This helps to differentiate to the specific child's needs. I want the children to understand that they are writing for a purpose. That they are writing to build friendship and to "fill someone's bucket" (In reference to the book, Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud.)
Today, you are going to be writing to one of your classmates, but the way that we will decide who writes to whom, will be very similar to my random selection sticks (Popsicle sticks, one for each child in class that has their name written on it. I place them in a cup and draw out one at a time.) I have put a photo of each child from our class into a hat. I will give everyone a chance to draw a photo from the hat, and that is the person you will write to. Their names are written on the back to help you write the name correctly in your letter. When you are finished writing your letter, and you have shown it to me, I will let you keep your friend's picture.
I know you think you know who you;d like to write to, but this will be different. Each child is an important part of our class; we would not be the same without them, so you must respond respectfully when you pull your picture. We want to be mindful of other people's feelings. The rule for writing this letter is that you must be kind. Even if you choose a student with whom you don't get along,you must think of positive comments to write.
What are some ideas for writing about? You can make a chart if you would like. Here are some suggestions:
Once the writing is finished, the child may draw a picture to send to their friend. I have the student write their friend's name on the envelope, but I do the addressing. The children get to put the stamp on, too, which they love. The letters are mailed out with an insert that reminds parents to send the letter back to school after they have read it to their child. I know that it would be easier to just hand the children the completed letters, but there is something special about getting a letter in your mailbox.
When you have finished your writing, I want you to draw a beautiful picture. Draw in a way that will give your friend a smile when they see it.
Please go ahead and start as soon as the paper passer hands you your paper.
Before the letters are enveloped, I have the child read the letter to me to make sure that it makes sense. Did the writer remember to use one of the prompts. Did they ask any questions?I have the student point to the heading, greeting, body, closing, and signature. I ask them to see if they have included any nice comments. When I feel the letter is all set, we the fold the letter and place it in an envelope to be mailed. (Since I live in a small town, I am sure the mail will arrive at the houses the next day, so I will tell the children to expect to bring them back in on the day after tomorrow.)
Once you receive your letter, I want you to practice reading it and then bring it back to school to share with a friend.
I also show the children that there are now letter templates in the Writing Station that they may use to write more letters.