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Lesson Plan

A Genre Study of Letters With The Jolly Postman

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A Genre Study of Letters With The Jolly Postman

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 45-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa Storm Fink

Lisa Storm Fink

Urbana, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • read and discuss The Jolly Postman.

  • explore characters from well-known stories.

  • examine parts of a letter.

  • research the different genres of mail.

  • categorize letters from The Jolly Postman by looking at their attributes.

  • demonstrate an understanding of parts of letters and letter genres by writing original letters.

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Session One

  1. Introduce the genre by discussing letters and letter writing, using the following questions as a guide:

    • Do you like to get mail?

    • What are some reasons that people write letters?

    • What type of letter would you write if someone gave you a gift?

    • What type would you write if you broke a friend's toy?

    • What type would you write if you were having a party?
  2. Talk with the students about the different types of letters that a letter carrier has to deliver. For example, there are formal letters, chatty notes, and invitations.

  3. Post a piece of chart paper and list these types of letters.

  4. Ask the children about other kinds of letters might be sent through the mail. As students brainstorm, add the kinds of letters to the chart paper.

  5. Critically read The Jolly Postman. Begin by summarizing the story: the book tells about the mail that a letter carrier delivers to fairy tale characters.

  6. Show the design of the book, focusing on the fact that some pages tell parts of the story in rhyme while some pages are actually the letters that the Postman in the book delivers. Discuss the format of the book and the different characters introduced.

  7. Read the book, being sure to read and display each letter and envelope. As you read each letter, you might pass the piece to students to look at more closely as you continue reading.

  8. Once you've finished the book, ask students to help you put the letters back in the right envelopes. As you go through the book another time, encourage students to use clues on the letters and envelopes to match the letters with their envelopes in the book.

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Session Two

  1. Show an example of a letter and an envelope that has already been prepared. You can use an example from the book or a letter that you have on hand.

  2. As a class, look at different types of mail-friendly letters, business letters, persuasive letters, greeting cards, and so forth. Discuss the similarities and differences of each type. Encourage students to use their own letters to find examples of the various parts of letters as they are discussed.

  3. Together, create a chart listing the characteristics of each type of mail. See the attachment as an example.

  4. Use the Type of Letter Worksheet, categorize the letters delivered by The Jolly Postman, based upon the class's letter description chart.

  5. As homework, have the students bring in examples of mail they receive at their home.

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Session Three

  1. Review the chart of characteristics created in the previous session. Answer any questions students have.

  2. Divide students into small groups, and ensure that each group has at least four to five letters.

  3. Based upon the class's letter description chart, have students categorize the examples of mail they brought from home.

  4. Circulate among students as they work, answering any questions and watching for evidence that students are using genre characteristics to sort the letters.

  5. Once students have sorted all their letters, bring the class together again and ask them to share what they found as they worked with their letters. Ask students to share the reasons that they categorized the letters as they did.

  6. Ask students to share any letters that didn't match the characteristics on the chart. Adjust the chart as necessary—either adding a category of letters or refining the characteristics.

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  • Share The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg (Little Brown & Co, 2001) or another picture book that focuses on letters with your class. As a chapter-book read-aloud, share Beverly Cleary's Dear Mr. Henshaw.

  • As an alternative to letter writing, use the interactive Postcard Creator to create original postcards. After printing their text, students can illustrate the front of the cards using markers or other art supplies.

  • Use the ReadWriteThink lesson plan Who's Got Mail? Using Literature to Promote Authentic Letter Writing to structure additional letter writing activities in your classroom.

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Demonstrate the Letter Generator for students. Ask students to choose characters from The Jolly Postman and share one of the scenarios below:

  • One of the characters from the book has decided that it would be nice to create a community garden. Write letters that the characters might share about the plans.

  • One of the characters from the book wants to start a community recycling center. Write letters that the characters might send or receive in this scenario.

  • One of the characters from the book would like to start a town newspaper. Write letters that the characters might send or receive in this scenario.

As a group brainstorm the things that the characters might write to one another in response to the particular scenario, listing the options on a sheet of chart paper. Once you've created a list that provides several possibilities for students to choose among, ask students to write their own letters using the Letter Generator based on the scenario. At a minimum, ask students to write at least two different kinds of letters. Assess the letters by comparing the work that students have created to the characteristics chart. If letters depart from the chart, discuss the comparison with the individual student and provide direct instruction to help the student understand the differences between the types of letters.

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