Sunday, January 5, 2014

Formal and Informal Language with Thank You Letters

The holidays are over! Of course, being in Pennsylvania, I had school on Thursday and then a snow day on Friday--not really the smoothest start to the new year. In January I am forever behind where I think I want to be.

But that single Thursday of instruction did let us finish up all of the personal narratives that students have been working on since October, so we can start fresh on Monday. After the holidays, I love taking a break from longer pieces of writing to write thank you letters. These little pieces of writing can provide so much mileage for instruction--formal and informal language, letter form, and addressing envelopes.

This year I've put together a little presentation with examples of formal and informal language. The text boxes don't work properly in the embed and I'm not particularly motivated to fix it right now, but you'll find it downloads just fine.

In our daily sentences, we'll be working on switching back and forth between formal and informal language--lots of fun for kids! Intermediate readers enjoy the humor of controlling their speech and tailoring it to the right situation.

One of my wonderful colleagues suggested adding one of the popular Sprint commercials to our first lesson. (Not all of them are school appropriate, so do be careful if you choose to use them.) The humor in this commercial actually comes from the mismatch between the formal attire of the actors and the informal language they are reading. As we watch it together, students will use whiteboards to record some of the examples of informal language used.

Our work with thank you letters will end with a chilly trip to the post office, which is right down the hill from the school. Each year that I've been doing this students have had less and less experience with actually mailing letters--hardly surprising, of course--and the process of putting the address on the front of the envelope. (Don't even get me started with the problems with placing the stamp!)

If you are writing thank you letters with students, be sure to send a note home to parents asking for stamp donations and the correctly written address of the person to whom students will be writing. I also get parent permission for students to use their home address for the return address. Most parents respond very favorably to this. Students who don't return to the parent letter write to someone at the primary school using our school's return address, which works out quite well.

This video helps students to understand the mail sorting process and appreciate the journey that their letters will undergo:

As I said, you can do a lot of teaching with a simple thank you letter! This quick little unit gets us refreshed and ready for the more rigorous essay writing that we will undertake at the end of the month.

January homework is ready! Four texts with comprehension questions, vocabulary activities, and open-ended responses. This month's texts are:
-Winter Is...a poem that I wrote when I was feeling rather annoyed with winter. My feelings haven't changed.
-Blizzard Warning! informational text about the Northeast blizzard of 1978.
-Happy Australia Day! informational text that compares and contrasts Australia Day (January 26) with Independence Day.
-Fairy Bread...a procedural text that tells how to make this Australian specialty. I read about fairy bread while researching Australia Day, found the incredibly simple recipe, and just had to share it. Here is a picture of the fairy bread that I made:

I wasn't sure if I liked it or not, but I had to keep trying it to check. Hmmm....

If you are interested in specific resources for thank you notes, you can find a mini-unit here.

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