Friday, August 13, 2010

Why Continue Teaching Kids How to Write A Friendly Letter?

In today's society we have text messages, email, cell phones, and a postal system that is losing money?  So why continue teaching students how to write a friendly letter?  Isn't it outdated?

I think that learning how to write letters is a skill that helps students process information.  We teach students how to write poetry and how to read it for deeper meaning. Yet probably most of us don't write poems in our daily adult life.  Yet we can appreciate the work done by others.  I think students should be exposed to many forms of writing.  It helps them develop many different skills that are important to their academic and social development.

As a librarian I am constantly trying to find ways to encourage students to take responsibility.  One of the problems I encounter is students forgetting to return their library books.    I know that the classroom teachers spend time teaching kids the parts of a letter.  I was sadly disappointed when I saw that many of my students were not able to apply that knowledge.  Last year I started having students write a letter to their parents/guardians when they had an overdue book.

After tweaking the project, my students gained letter writing practice and my books came back on a more regular basis.  This year I want to introduce letter writing through literature.  There are a number of picture books that make for a great lead in.

  • Dear Mrs LaRue: Letters from Obedience School by Mark Teague
  • Dear Mr. Blueberry by Simon James
  • Mailing May by Michael O. Tunnell
  • With Love, Little Red Hen by Alma Flor Ada 
  • The Jolly Postman by Allan Ahlberg
  • A Lucky Dog: Owney, US Rail Mail Mascot by Dirk Wales

For my older students showing them the importance of letters as a window to historical events seems like a great connection.  The National Postal Museum has some great information and curriculum units. The Pony Express is featured in Moving the Mail West.  The United States Postal Service curriculum resource center, is another great site for exploring history through stamps. Take a look at their education kits.

What do you think, should we continue to teach letter writing in schools?    

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