Earlier I wrote about a unit that I planned for teaching students how to write thank-you notes. Now that I've started the unit, I am so happy with how it's going! Parents responded enthusiastically to the letters that I sent home asking for addresses and stamp donations.
And students enjoyed reading about letters from the past. I pulled out some of the old letters that I have on hand (read here about how I used them to teach about inferences). We looked at the letters and talked about how some features have stayed the same, while others have changed. Why do letters still have greetings? Why do we not use hot wax to seal letters anymore? (Thank goodness.)
When it was time to write, students jumped right in. Some of them struggled with the form of letters--we'll work on this in the next few days! Others, though, struggled with the rhetorical task of letter writing. How to express greetings to a grandmother you see every day? How to start out a letter to someone you hardly know?
At the end of class, we shared their writing challenges and successes. For students who were frustrated, I told them, "You are joining a long line of letter writers, through the centuries, who have had trouble with getting started writing a letter." There is something that is so neat about joining a club of writers!