Letter writing is an activity that can easily be found in classrooms across the country- chances are you’ve taught lessons on writing letters. Composing a letter is a creative and stimulating activity that can help students learn about the writing process, as well as how to adjust their tone, language, and purpose, depending on the audience. This is an activity that aligns nicely with the Common Core State Standards for Writing and Language. The ability to communicate to varied audiences in writing is a critical skill that students need to develop to be successful in higher education and the workforce.
One great way to get started with a unit or activity on letter writing is to explore Letters of Note. On this blog, you’ll find a collection of letters from historical figures such as Marie Curie (a letter of recommendation for Albert Einstein), a fan letter to Walt Whitman (from Bram Stoker, author of Dracula), a heartfelt thank you from Albert Camus to his childhood teacher, and advice for living from Kurt Vonnegut to a group of high school students.
Use these correspondences as a starting point to discuss how the tone or language in a letter changes depending upon the audience and purpose. Note that not every letter on the site is appropriate for children (language or content), but these real-life letters can be an engaging way to highlight the different forms and functions of letter writing.
Looking for more ideas? Check out the links below for lesson plans and project suggestions!
- “I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Someone a Letter” by: EDSITEment (http://edsitement.neh.gov/lesson-plan/im-gonna-sit-right-down-and-write-someone-letter)
- “Writing Persuasive Letters” Lesson Plan by: Scholastic (https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/unit-plans/teaching-content/writing-persuasive-letters)
- “Draft Letters: Improving Student Writing through Critical Thinking” by: ReadWriteThink (http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/draft-letters-improving-student-902.html)
- “Who’s Got Mail? Using Literature to Promote Authentic Letter Writing” by: ReadWriteThink (http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/mail-using-literature-promote-85.html)
- “What’s the Difference? Beginning Writers Compare E-mail with Letter Writing” by:ReadWriteThink (http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/what-difference-beginning-writers-299.html)
- “Take Action” by: Rock Your World (http://rock-your-world.org/category/writing-persuasively/)
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Acknowledgement: Special thanks to Caroline Martin for helping to compile this blog post