On the first day of school, I gave my students letters from last year's students. Rather than standing up and telling the students about me, I wanted to let them know my expectations are requirements from the horse's mouth--the students who had lived through it. I reminded my students of these letters, and the students that started out the year with me remembered those letters. One student said he even had his still. The students who didn't start out with me seemed a bit sad that they didn't get one.
And that's their last assignment for the year. They're writing business letters to next year's seventh graders. They're writing business letters, rather than friendly letters, because they don't know which seventh grader is getting their letter. They don't know if they have a close enough relationship for friendly letters, and students need lots of practice with writing business letters.
Their letters start out with the greeting, or salutation. The punctuation mark at the end is a colon, not a comma.
None of the letter is indented in the block business letter format. Nothing. Not one thing. Not even the first paragraph. Not even the signature. Nothing. No, not even that. Nothing. Don't indent. Don't indent anything. (Some students still indented the signature).
The first paragraph is the introduction. It states who is writing and the purpose of the letter. It's super short, just two or three sentences.
The second paragraph is ALL THE DETAILS! This is where students write sets of concrete evidence and commentary to give next year's students the information they need. I asked students to write three sets of concrete evidence and commentary, so this paragraph would need five to seven sentences.
The last paragraph, the conclusion, summarizes the main ideas of the letter. An important part of business letters is letting the reader know how they can contact you, but I told students not to give out their phone number, e-mail, or address. Instead, let the new seventh grader know where they can find you--at second lunch, at a club, in student council, as an office aide, etc. The last thing to do is to give the new students an encouraging message.
End the letter with the signature. Sincerely, comma, and you name.
Next, we spent about ten minutes thinking of the important things for students to know about English, seventh grade, and Ms. DeVries. The picture below shows the list that one of my classes generated.
My favorite items on the list were
Then students wrote their letters. I walked them through it, using the letter model/instructions. The instructions were set up as a business letter, so students had the format right in front of them.