Saturday, July 21, 2012

Writing Workshop Series: Post #4 - Friendly Letters

In much the same way as my reading workshop, I begin writing workshop with a foundational unit on sentences and paragraphs.  That's right!  Before students are ready to begin writing various genres, they must have those basics to write complete sentences and simple paragraphs.  Let's face it, learning to write complete sentences is not that fun, so I like to incorporate lots of activities to help teach this concept besides just sitting and writing - we play games, use interactive PowerPoints, and more!

Once these foundations are in place, we move on to our first writing genre.  I usually start with Friendly Letters because it's FUN!!  There are so many ways you can use friendly letters and students are usually familiar with them already.  To teach friendly letters we use lots of games, interactive PowerPoints, picture books, songs and practice, practice, practice!!

I am a HUGE believer in reading aloud to children as much as possible.  I can't even count the number of read-alouds that I use in a typical day....for every subject, for sure!  I could spend all day reading aloud! :)
Some of my absolute favorite read-alouds for friendly letters include:
I usually use this book as an introduction of the many reasons we write to people.  It has actual "mail" to open and read, such as letters, invitations, thank you cards, etc.
If you read First Day Jitters at the beginning of the year, this one is a must since it is the same teacher and class.  Students will make that text to text connection!  (And, there's a Last Day Blues book you can read on the last day of school!)
This is one of my absolute favorite books!  I love the illustrations and the closings of the letters are cleverly written!  I double dip with this book and use it again for my persuasion unit, but the students don't mind...they love it, too!
And, the author has a follow-up that we love, too (though not quite as much!)
There are several of these fairytale letter books.  The letters are quite lengthy so you probably wouldn't read the book in one sitting, but it's a great look at perspective in addition to letter writing.

There are a ton more....but these are some of my favorites.  Do you have favorite read-alouds for teaching letter writing?  I'm always looking to expand my collection!

We also love to sing (though this teacher needs LOTS of help!)  Some of my favorite letter writing songs are below.  Feel free to download these freebies for use with your class!

One of my favorite games to play is Around the World with Friendly Letter Parts.  You can find it and all of the other friendly letter resources I use at Teacher's Clubhouse.
Here's a close up of one of the foldables completed.  I absolutely love this project and it becomes a super handy resource that students keep in their writing folders.
They draw themselves and label the parts of the letter and on the inside they write their address, various headings, closings, practice their signature, and write prompts to help them when writing the body of the letter.
Another foldable that I couldn't live without is the letter/envelope that prints on one side of one page.  It saves prints and keeps me from having to purchase envelopes.  It's perfect for our school mail delivery system!

Our big culminating project for this unit is our Flat Stanley Project.  After reading the book Flat Stanley, students find a friend/relative in a different country, state, or city to send a flat friend to - we discuss how it would be too expensive to travel to visit them, so they create flat replicas of themselves and travel in an envelope just like Stanley!  Students write a letter to this person, address the envelope, and take him/her home to mail!  Then, the friend sends him back with a letter about his/her adventures!  Students get so super excited about waiting on their very own mail to return to school!  You can find these resources here if you're interested.
We also create our very own postcards out of index cards - super easy!  Students address the lined side and illustrate the blank side.  We then send them to their parents....students are so excited when they actually arrive in their mail at home!

All posts in this series:

I hope this gives you a little insight into our friendly letter unit, and maybe a new idea or two!  I'd love to hear about your favorite books, songs, or activities for teaching friendly letters!
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday


  1. OMG. How have I not heard of First Year Letters??? I read First Day Jitters last year, but will have the same students this coming year. I definitely need to look into this book. Thanks for sharing!

    Dirty Hands and Lesson Plans

  2. I LOVED the Jolly Postman when I was in school! Will have to read that with my kiddo's this year! :)
    Jean Robinson
    Diving Into 2nd Grade

  3. Love the song! But I, too, need lots of help in that area ;0)

    Teach on a Limb

  4. Thanks for stopping by my blog-I am now following you too! You have some great things on your blog, and I can't wait to check out more of what you have posted!


    1. hi
      I would really need some help. I am a practice teacher at the second grade. I am told to teach the letter at one part at a time but i don't know where to start

  5. What great resources! I too, start with friendly letters!

    I use the book, Dear Teacher, by Amy Husband. I love it because it combines letter writing {the book opens like an envelope} with back to school {the main character is writing about why he can't return to school}. I also like all the Alama Flor Ada books, and I really need to look into your first two recommendations!


    Across the Hall in 2nd

  6. Hmmm...How do I not have the book Dear Teacher? I'm going to have to fix that immediately! :) Thanks for sharing, Halle!

  7. Love the Flat Stanley idea! Totally gonna use that one! The kids will love it!

  8. Great ideas for getting students into friendly letter writing! Thanks for sharing!

  9. I love all your ideas! I'll be teaching writing to 90 third graders next year.

  10. I love the friendly letter foldable, we do alot of foldables in my 2nd grade classroo. Can I find the friendly letter foldable to print on this website?

    1. Jennifer, I found it in her shop. It's here: (Look for "Letter with Envelope.")

  11. Third grade teacherDecember 1, 2012 at 9:08 PM

    Wow! Love the great ideas...especially the flip book! Will definitely do this with my class as we are planning to write our first letters to our pen pals. Thanks so much!

  12. Thanks for the wonderful ideas!

  13. Am excited with the ideas and suggestions. I used the chant and the song for my pupils... it was FANTASTIC! We had fun. Thanks!


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