Monday, December 1, 2014

Let's Write to Someone! A New Resource

This is the time of year when I do a writing mini-unit on letter writing. We know it is important to teach children about many genres and purposes for writing, and in writing letters, kids practice many kindergarten writing objectives– talk about real world writing for a real audience! There are many different elements you can pull into a letter writing unit, making it as simple or elaborate as you choose.

I introduce several common letter formats throughout my unit, showing how formats change with the purpose of the letter. Is it a conversational letter, a thank you letter, or an invitation? I come up with ways for the kiddos to practice writing all of these. We write to a pen pal from the kindergarten in another building, write letters to our principal, and invite our big buddies to a reading time. We write love letters and thank you notes to family members. A good time for thank you notes is right after a school break when kids spent extra time with family. It doesn't need to be a thank you for a gift, but can be words of thanks for a fun activity that the student enjoyed.

Some years I also ask parents to help their child choose an out-of-town family member or friend to write to, and ask that they send in their address. I suggest that parents contact this person ahead of time so the person is ready and willing to write back in a timely way. This activity gives us reason to learn how to address an envelope. We also pull down the map to see where the letters are going, tying in a little social studies. We write the letters in school and put them in our office mail bin. (One year we took a great field trip to the post office!) I try to time it so the kids can meet the postal carrier on his daily stop. All of our regular mail carriers have been willing to talk for just a few minutes about what's going to happen to our letters next. Within a week or two my kiddos bring in the letters they got back and after reading the messages we post them for all to see. Just looking at all the different correspondence is a real education for kids, and a huge motivator to write more.

You can write to a Disney character and receive back a postcard.

Walt Disney World Communications
P.O. Box 10040
Lake Beuna Vista, FL  32830-0040

Sometimes our class writes a group letter to the President and we get a letter back from him, too.

President Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
After our letter writing unit is over we continue to find people to write to. Some years it is to our resident fairy... on very small paper! And sometimes one of our fairies writes back! Class mascots can also be recipients of student letters.

There are many objectives that kids work on when letter writing, one of which is writing for an audience. You can't say or ask the same thing of your big buddy that you would of your cousin, or your grandma, or the principal. It takes some thinking and trying on of perspectives to get it just right. I have a funny kid story about that. I'm saving it for this month's Funny Kid Friday which posts this week, btw. Don't know about Funny Kid Fridays? Click on the button at the top of the page to go to archives for a guaranteed grin.

Another element to consider is the writing stationery you'll use. There are many kinds of stationery available on the market. You can find it in different sizes and with different themes. My favorite kinds for early writers are those that allow space for illustration, allow students to make or color their own border, and give designated lines for specific parts of the letter- date, greeting, body, closing, and signature.

After the unit ends I keep our writing center well stocked with stationery so letter writing continues. Just like with our mini-unit on list writing, kids need and want to practice the skill long after the official teaching is over. I ask parents for donations of stationery and we usually get a nice variety. I make sure the writing center is stocked not only with paper, but also old cards, envelopes, and one cent stamps from the post office. These real stamps are cheaper than many stickers. I also put our class mailbox into use and add a new job to our job board- postal carrier. This person is in charge of checking the mailbox and delivering the mail during free choice time. All these details make letter writing fun all year round.

Oh, and don't forget the end-of-unit writers' celebration. Look what we do, using red licorice shoelaces! Everyone knows how to spell these two words by the end of the unit. Great fun!

Now for the Big News! To help you with your letter unit, I'm posting a NEW letter writing resource on TPT! (This is a rare event, folks, as I am about blogging but not so much selling. Take note!) It includes tips and activities for the unit, anchor charts, a half dozen types of my favorite stationery, a template for a postcard, and a student letter planning sheet. Over the years of letter writing, I've found it useful if the kids plan what they are going to say in their letters. I don't have kids do a planning sheet every time, only towards the beginning, and they don't need to do a lot of writing for it- no sense in writing the letter twice. After they get used to the format they can just refer to it– I keep a couple laminated copies if kids want to fill it out with wipe-off markers. I've found since using the planning sheet for some reflection before we start to write, our letter writing quality improves.

The unit is on sale just in time for TPT's Cyber Tuesday! I reduced it 10% off it's $2 price, and with the TPT additional 10% discount when you use the code, it makes nice savings for a very small price on a sweet little resource. My April Showers cross curricular mini-unit is also marked down now. We can dream of spring, even as we gear up for snow, can't we? You'll find my TPT store is smaller than most- with the majority of items being free, so if you haven't checked it out, now is the time to do so. You'll find free list papers there to supplement your list writing unit and a hand washing packet which includes a song.  Click on the image to go there.  AND don't forget to use the CODE on everything in your cart! There's nothing worse than clicking the done button on your purchase and then realizing you didn't enter the code for the extra discount! Ugh.

Now click on back to Sassy, Savvy, Simple Teaching with Dianna to find more great finds on TPT during this Cyber Sale.  Have fun shopping!

For most of us it is just three more weeks until winter break and the holidays. Hope these weeks are happy and productive!

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