Applying Letter Writing to Daily Life

Here are some ideas to get your students writing letters with a purpose.

By Wendy Haagenson

Applying Letter Writing to Daily Life

Students are much more invested in their learning when it applies to their life. It’s difficult for them to understand why they have to learn about something that seems unimportant to know and disconnected from their daily life. When I teach students letter writing, I make sure that they know that this is an important skill that they will use regularly.

Writing Friendly Letters

When teaching students about writing friendly letters, I have them set up mailboxes so that they can write letters to their classmates. Students get excited about being able to pass notes in class with the teacher’s permission! What’s even better is that students usually want to respond when a letter is written to them, and thus, another letter is written!

In order to make sure that everyone receives a letter, and the activity doesn’t become a popularity contest, I typically assign students a letter writing partner. They can, however, write additional letters to their friends. I provide formatting guidelines so that students know how their letters should be written. When I’m working with older students, I have them write me a letter telling me about themselves as one of their first homework assignments. This gives me an insight into my students and their personal interests, and an idea of their writing, spelling, and grammar skills.

Create a Letter for a Time Capsule

Another fun way to teach friendly letter writing is to create a class time capsule. I actually did this as a student in high school. During my freshman year, we were all required to write letters to ourselves and place them in a sealed envelope. Towards the end of my senior year, I was given the letter I had written to myself four years earlier. It was interesting to look back and see how much had changed (including my writing skills). This project can be done over a shorter time span, such as a school year, or even a summer. As the teacher, you may choose to read and grade the letter your students have written to themselves, or you may choose to allow them to keep their letters private and trust that by giving them another opportunity to write, you are helping them become a better writer.

Writing Business Letters

My favorite way to teach students about the business letter format is by having them write to a business! Ask students to select a business whose product they like – I have found that major food corporations tend to produce the best responses. Students can write a formal letter explaining why they like the product, and suggesting any changes they would like to see made to the product. Then, ask students to locate the address for customer complaints and comments on the product packaging so that they know where to mail their letter. From my experience, what usually happens is the student will receive a response letter from the company, which in and of itself is exciting when you’re a kid, and many companies will also send coupons for discounted or free items. They may even send along samples of the product. Here are some lesson ideas that include letter writing.

Letter Writing Lessons and Activities:

Friendly Letters

Students write friendly letters after watching an episode of Maya & Miguel.

Friendly Letter to a Leprechaun

This lesson teaches students about the format of a friendly letter by having them write to a leprechaun.

Parts of a Friendly Letter

Students sing a song to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell” that helps them remember the five parts of a friendly letter.

Getting Down to Business

In this lesson for older students, that can be easily adapted for younger learners, students write a letter to a business or a celebrity.

Letter to the President

Students use information they have gathered from a previous research project to write an informative letter to the president.