Writing Letters to Poem Characters

In Honor of National Poetry Month…

 

I love to have my students write letters. Most of the time, they’re to real people…like the president…who always writes back! There is nothing more exciting to a child than getting a letter from the president, let me tell you. Letters are great because they make children know they have a voice. In addition to the president, I’ve had my students write to other such important people as their principal, their parents, and their siblings.

Sometimes, however, letter-writing is a means of expression, and as a way of feeling like they’re an authority on something. Ideally, the people they are writing to are real (and maybe anonymous? You could have a class-wide anonymous “Ask a Classmate” session). In lieu of organizing that, there are letters to characters.

As most of my students have difficulty with fluency, I sometimes like to use poetry instead of prose, since they are more willing to read it fluently (and out loud).

Materials:

  • a compilation of poems (I picked 5 from Shel Silverstein that I really liked and which featured interesting characters, but maybe you want to focus on these “Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls” highlighted by Maria Popova, edited by William Cole, with illustrations by Tomi Ungerer, which includes the poetry of Shel Silverstein, A.A. Milne, Lewis Carroll, and Ted Hughes)
  • a letter writing template (I like the one on the third page of this template from TeacherVisions; in fact this whole activity is pretty cute, or use a Google Form with Awesome Table)
  • optional: envelopes, stamps that they can design (on stickers), a class mailbox

How-to:

  • Read one of the poems. As you read, model your internal monologue of what you think about the character.
  • If you haven’t already done a letter-writing unit, create a list of possible greetings (to be displayed in the classroom) and a list of potential sign offs (to be displayed in the classroom). Explain that the body of the letter tends to include “ASA”: Ask, Share, Advice (often in that order, though not necessarily).
  • Model writing a letter from start to finish. Post this model for students to access.
  • Provide a packet of poems and letter templates. Have students send their letters through a pretend mailbox, or have them publish it in a class magazine or blog

This entire assignment can be done digitally through Google Apps for Education. I’ll share my example of Letter Writing to a Character using GAfE soon!

 

Letter to Jimmy Jett in Shel Silverstein's poem (with drawing and "Peace Out" greeting)

Letter to Jimmy Jett in Shel Silverstein’s poem (with drawing and “Peace Out” greeting)

letter to Reginald

Letter to Reginald form Shel Silverstein’s poem. A cute sharing of also being afraid of the dark.

 

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