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Lesson Plan

Who's Got Mail? Using Literature to Promote Authentic Letter Writing

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Who's Got Mail? Using Literature to Promote Authentic Letter Writing

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Renee Goularte

Renee Goularte

Magalia, California


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • discuss the purposes and conventions of letter writing.

  • learn the names and uses of the components of a friendly letter.

  • write for real purposes to authentic audiences.

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Session One

  1. Gather students together for a read-aloud of the book The Gardener. Explain that this is the story of a little girl who goes to live with her uncle in the city when her father loses his job, and that the story is written through her letters home.

  2. Read The Gardener aloud. Ask students to take note of the different parts Lydia Grace includes in the letters she sends. As they identify the components, provide the labels for them if students do not know them:

    • date

    • salutation or greeting

    • body

    • closing

    • postscript (PS)
  3. At the end of the story, have students respond to the story itself. Help students discuss the different purposes Lydia Grace uses letters to achieve. Possible answers include sharing information, expressing something that is difficult to say face to face, expressing gratitude, and so forth.

  4. Explain to students that the class is now going to write a letter together. Ask them to think about someone at school who has been helpful to them in some way. A good choice may be the principal, but students can help decide on any adult who has made a contribution.

  5. After students choose the letter recipient, have them briefly brainstorm ideas to include in the letter.

  6. Tape chart paper to the board to begin the shared letter-writing activity. Continue to elicit information for the letter from students through questioning. Make sure that all letter-writing elements are included: date, salutation, body, closing, and postscript.

  7. After the letter is complete, label the components and keep the finished product on display for reference in the next session.

  8. Tell students that in the next session, they will be writing a letter to someone. Ask them to think of someone they need to communicate with and consider what they need to share with/ask him or her. If students are going to be mailing their letters through the post office, ask them to write to one of their parents, or another relative or adult friend who is close to them. If they are going to be delivering their letters within the school, suggest that they write to an adult in the school who has done something to help them.

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Session Two

  1. Begin the session by telling students they are going to continue their study of letter writing and gather them for a read-aloud of Dear Mr. Blueberry. Discuss the nature and style of ongoing correspondence between Emily and Mr. Blueberry.

  2. Review with students the parts of the letter using the sample from the previous session. Share with them a copy of the Letter Generator to have another model for the product.

  3. Share the Letter Writing Checklist so students can self-evaluate their letters before mailing them.

  4. If students are using computers, have them open the Letter Generator for another review of the parts of a letter. Ask students to move on in the Letter Generator to begin their letters. Inform students that their work cannot be saved in this tool, so they need to print a copy of their work at the end of the session.

  5. If students are writing by hand, ask them to use pencil so they can correct any mistakes in their writing easily.

  6. As students write their letters, have them use the class-made references when necessary.

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Session Three

  1. Have students share letters in small groups and help each other revise and expand on their thoughts where appropriate. Give students time to return to the Letter Generator to make revisions if necessary.

  2. When students are finished, make a model of an envelope using a horizontal full sheet of construction paper, showing the correct placement of the return address and recipientís address. Have them address their envelopes and affix stamps for mailing.

  3. If there is a mail box or a post office near the school, the class can walk there to deposit their letters. If students will be distributing letters within the school, have a small group of students work together to sort all the mail for delivery, then have all students participate in delivering the mail around the school.

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  • Use the interactive Postcard Creator to discuss the parts of postcards and create the text for studentsí own postcards. Students can then illustrate the front of the cards using markers or other art supplies.

  • Read aloud other books about correspondence, choosing from this list of Picture Books that Feature Letters.

  • Conduct a literature circle using Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary.

  • Teach this EDSITEment lesson, which has links to letters written by famous and not-so-famous people.

  • Take a field trip to the post office.

  • Establish pen pals in another city or at another school.

  • Start a schoolwide mail center for ongoing in-school correspondence.

  • Have students create their own All-In-One Envelopes and Stationery. Directions can be found at Crayola.

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