Learning About Friendly Letters in the Elementary Classroom

Learning Goal: Students will learn how to compose a “friendly”/informal letter. They will also learn how to draw comparisons between their own lives and lives that are different from theirs.

Rationale: This lesson plan fits Massachussetts State Curriculum Learning Standard 19.7, “Write or dictate letters, directions, or short accounts of personal experiences that follow a logical order”, and 20.2, “Use appropriate language for different audiences (other students, parents) and purposes (letter to a friend, thank you note, invitation)“.

Age/Grade: 1st-3rd

Materials: Any book or series of books can be used, depending on what area of study the class is currently pursuing. When I taught this lesson, my students were studying the continents, and tracing their families’ histories to their continent and country of origin. If the topic is nonfiction, it’s best to find books that are about people (for instance, I found several series of books that were specifically about people in various countries and continents, not books about topography).

Activity:
1.) Over several days, read the books aloud to the class. Have all of the books available for children to look at during their independent reading time.

2.) After each book, take a piece of chart paper and have students list aspects of the book that they noticed were different from their own lives. Post the chart paper around the room – the brainstorm lists will be used as inspiration when the students compose their friendly letters.

3.) Introduce the five-part format of a friendly letter by writing a sample letter on a large writing surface (blackboard, whiteboard, chart paper, etc.) and labeling the parts:
– Heading: includes sender’s address and the date. The sender’s address goes at the top right-hand corner; the date is under the sender’s address on the left-hand side of the page, above the greeting.
– Greeting: located under the heading on the left-hand side of the page. Includes words like “Dear _____,”.
– Body: includes the message of the letter. Written in paragraph form.
– Closing: includes words such as “Sincerely,” “Your Friend,” etc.
– Signature: your signed name under the closing.

4.) Have students write letters to their favorite characters from one of the books they heard or read. The letters should contain what they liked or thought was interesting about the other person’s life, and how it’s different from their own lives. Be sure to emphasize that their purpose is not to criticize the way others live, and that one way of life is not better than another – what works for some doesn’t work for everyone.

Adaptations and Extensions: Students can review the five parts of a friendly letter in class or for homework. As an adaptation for children who are English Language Learners or who struggle with writing, students can draw (or cut out) pictures of what they were interested by, then do the same for what they compared in their own lives.

Assessment: Can students name the five parts of a friendly letter? Can they write a friendly letter? Are they able to make comparisons between someone else’s lifestyle and their own? Are they able to discuss differences without being critical of how others live?

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