Letter Writing for Children
In a world where so many people communicate by email or text message, it’s more important than ever to introduce children to letter writing at an early age.
It’s vital to make sure that children see writing letters as a pleasure and not a chore. If letters become a duty there’s a danger they’ll turn away from this valuable form of communication forever. The principles of good letter writing can also be applied to producing good emails, the skills will never be wasted.
Learning ChecklistTeach children to write letters using a mini checklist of skills and knowledge. Each part of the checklist forms part of a jigsaw that will help your children put together a letter to be proud of.
- Letter Layout - Show your child how each individual part of the letter is positioned on the page. For example, they place their address in the top right-hand corner, followed by the date and finally the salutation and body of the letter with its close at the end. This will clearly demonstrate the several distinct parts of a letter that they need to think about each time they sit down to write.
- The Salutation - Explain how to open their letter, the salutation. They need to know when to be formal and when to be informal. This means they will have to think about whether to use Mr. and Mrs. titles and how to open a letter if they don’t know the recipient’s name.
- Letter Ending - It’s important for children to grasp the different ways to end a letter. If they have addressed the letter to a named person they can end with ‘yours sincerely’ and if they have used a general name to address the letter, they should use ‘yours faithfully’ instead. Try talking about other ways they could close their letters if they know the recipient well or if it’s a very informal letter.
- Organise Ideas - Look at ways to teach children how to organise the content or main body of their letter. They could think about what their letter will say and organise their ideas before they start. Try doing this in a fun way by putting the ideas into doodles of colourful balloons on a blank piece of paper. As they deal with each point in their letter, they can then burst the balloon by crossing it off. This is an important skill they can also adapt throughout their school career when writing essays and stories.
- Draw a Template - To help children see how all these parts of a letter fit together, draw a simple template of the page and how the letter should be laid out.
Keeping It FunAs soon as letter writing becomes a chore, it’s going to be very hard work encouraging children to persist with this skill. Try to keep their interest by introducing small elements of fun into the process.
Make sure that children have interesting pens and paper to use. This might be a favourite character as part of the stationery design or even a scented pen.
If you don’t want to spend money on new stationery, suggest decorating some simple writing paper with a special design. Designs could include simple line drawings at the top of the paper or a pretty, coloured border. Perhaps children may be interested in learning to stencil or stamp their own paper. Whatever they choose to do, make sure that the letter itself is still legible and not lost in the design!
Mistakes to AvoidDon’t force children to write letters- encourage them by thinking of interesting projects they can get involved with that will inspire them to write. Some great ideas to spark their interest are:
- A letter to a friend inviting them to tea or a special day out.
- Writing a letter to Father Christmas is always popular.
- If children have started to lose their milk teeth, encourage them to start some correspondence with the tooth fairy.
- Look into ways of finding a pen friend for your child. Pen pal agencies still exist, even in this age of emails. Not only is it a wonderful way to make sure children keep writing letters but they also learn so much about other cultures, religions and ways of life.
- If your child admires a particular character, writer or film/ TV star, suggest they write the object of their admiration a letter explaining why they like them. Not many children can resist dropping Harry Potter a line!
If you are helping children to put their letter together, make sure you don’t take over, dictate or instruct. The best approach is to encourage and advise without over-correcting. This will only squash creativity and dampen enthusiasm.
Above all, keep letter writing fun. It doesn’t take children long to pick up the basic principles of letter-writing and once they have that little spark of interest, find any way you can to keep the flame burning.