Valentine’s Day is a great time to teach what some may say is an outdated practice of writing letters. We are in a generation that values speed and efficiency over patience and care. Letters truly are a practice in diligence as one must hand-write them, patience as you must wait for your letter to arrive, and a practice in care as every word was lovingly chosen. Letter writing is a timeless activity that also can translate well into email etiquette, to make it relevant to the times. This Valentine’s Day: Writing Letters and Email Etiquette will be a must in your classroom.
Valentine’s Day makes me think of handwritten cards with misspelled words and chunky handwriting, cursive swirls, heart stickers, and pink and red pictures with comical puns. I just love Valentine’s Day in the classroom. Many schools have affectionately adopted Friendship Day as a replacement and I love that too. Promoting love, kindness, friendship, and my favorite color: pink, are a win/win in my book! 🙂
By taking the time to teach letter writing, teachers are in turn educating students on how to write a proper email, as well. This fills two needs with one deed!
Step 1: Parts of a Letter
I love to teach letter writing by simply starting with the parts of a letter. The proper parts of a letter are:
- Heading: Address of Recipient/Date
- Complimentary Closing
- Signature Line
Step 2: Practice Writing Letters
Next, we practice writing letters to each other in the classroom. Our letters serve a purpose. For instance, we talk ahead of time as to what their letter will be about. Is it a get-to-know-you letter? If so, students will want to offer information about themselves and then ask questions. Is the purpose of this letter to ask them an important question or to ask them to do something for them? Students will need to have an introduction before diving into this all-important question and of course, they’ll need to say thank you in anticipation of an answer to the question. By first deciding the purpose and how to lay out the letter, students are more prepared with what to write.
Step 3: Manners!
Students should remember their manners in a letter. By offering a greeting first and by saying please and thank you, students are showing that manners aren’t a lost art form, like letter writing. We talk about how sometimes when others read a letter, it’s hard to judge tone or expression as we can’t see facial cues or listen to a voice, so using manners and choosing to be overly kind, allows the reader to not feel defensive and in turn, can respond in a polite manner as well.
Step 4: Authentic Letters
Practice authentic ways to write letters. Here are some ways to practice letter writing.
Flat Stanley Activity:
The Flat Stanley books are based on a boy who gets flattened by a falling bulletin board, but this has a perk. Flat Stanley can be mailed in an envelope to experience new places. Students read a Flat Stanley book and color and cut out their own Stanley. Next, students use the template letter to help write their own letters. Students mail their Flat Stanley and letter to friends and family in other parts of the world. Recipients take their Flat Stanley with them and snap pictures of Stanley and themselves doing something fun! These pictures, a letter, and Flat Stanley are then sent back to the student. We completed Flat Stanley when I taught elementary school; it was such a popular activity. My son completed it in his first-grade classroom and still talks about it today!
Arrange a pen pal correspondence with another class. Teachers can find pen-pals for their students through other schools in their districts or even through a college friend who happens to teach in another county or state.
Family Letter Writing:
Assign your students to write a letter to a family member that may live in a different state or even a different town. When your student receives a letter back, the magic in their eyes is heartwarming and they can then see how important letter writing is.
Have students write letters to you! Place a mailbox on your desk. I snagged a cute foam one from Target one year. Remind students to write a letter to you with a purpose and with the proper parts so they can practice!
Letters to Emails:
I believe that if students are trained to write proper letters in elementary school, then they can also write proficient and kind emails once they get older. If you’ve ever received an unkind, curt email from a parent, you definitely know that writing a proficient email is an important skill.
When I taught middle or high school, I would often receive emails from students that were like a text messages among peers. There was no greeting, no manners, no kindness, and no respect.
I would receive one-line emails that read: “You graded my essay yet?” Another example I received was, “_________said we had homework. That true?” I’ve even received extremely rude and angry emails from high schoolers over grades!
Oftentimes I wouldn’t reply and would have to address their email in person. That’s when I realized that I needed to teach email etiquette at the beginning of the year. Older students needed to learn how to send a proper email. I had to explain to them that I was their teacher and not their friend that they were texting.
As emailing is a huge part of being an adult, is a requirement in virtually every job, and is a life-long skill. Translating those letter-writing abilities into email etiquette is an easy adjustment if they learned how to first write a proper letter.
At the beginning of the year, teach your older students to write a proper email. From having a greeting, a kind introduction, a purpose, overabundant manners, and a respectful closing, students can write proficient emails (and perhaps teach those parents how to do that too!).
Utilize Picture Books to Teach Writing Letter Skills
Here are some wonderful picture books to enforce those letter-writing skills in elementary school:
How to Send a Hug by Hayley Rocco, Illustrated by Jon Rocco
The Love Letter: A Valentine’s Day Book for Kids by Anika Aldamuy Denise, Illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins
Can I Be Your Dog? By Troy Cummings
Dear Teacher: A Funny Back to School Book For Kids About First Day Jitters by Amy Husband
The Jolly Postman, by Allan Ahlberg, Illustrated by Janet Ahlberg
This nostalgic classic includes real letters for your students to hold and read. A definite must-have in the classroom.
If you want your students to practice emails, why not use Valentine’s Day as an excuse? With our Valentine’s Day Writing Paper writing resource, they can do so!
We created a FUN, Design-It-Yourself Digital Valentine’s Card (completed solely on Google Slides.) Students or teachers can choose between a Variety of Colors, Digital Stickers, and the cutest Gnome Puns Stickers to create unique Valentine’s Day Cards to send to their Digital Friends.
We also incorporated Student Directions for writing Haikus to turn this exciting project into a Language Arts Lesson as well. The project includes Complete Instructions and Example for your students to follow to create a Valentine Haiku on their card.
Use Valentine’s Day to practice letter writing with our Valentine’s Writing Papers. Students can send their mom an excellent letter telling them how and why they love her so much, or they can send a family member an appreciation letter as well.
Letter writing may seem like an antiquated practice, but it is a timeless skill that should be practiced more and more. A pro is that proper letter writing transitions nicely into email etiquette, a skill students definitely need as they get older. Utilize Valentine’s Day to help students learn letter writing and email etiquette. Letter and email writing will be a fun activity that they’ll fall in love with!