The end of the year is a hectic time. Kids are checking out as spring fever kicks in and you, as a teacher, are trying to keep it all together while providing your students with some different, extra motivating activities to help them focus.
This letter-writing activity is one that fits the bill perfectly! The added bonus is not only is it a fun end of the year activity for your students, but it is a meaningful one that promotes gratitude and spreads kindness at your school.
I started doing this letter-writing activity quite a few years ago, as I was wracking my brain, trying to find some end of the year activities that were a bit out of the norm. Once I had students writing these letters, I knew it was something that would become one of my end of the year teaching traditions.
So, you may be wondering what exactly is the letter-writing activity, and how do you organize it? I’ll give you step-by-step instructions here!
1. Getting Started
To introduce the activity, I tell the kids that each of them will be writing a letter that he/she will deliver to an adult who works at our school. I make sure to tell the kids that the person they choose should be someone that they appreciate. It might be a custodian, yard duty, para, cafeteria worker, principal, office staff member, or even another teacher.
I do not let them write this letter to me, although each year kids ask me if that would be alright. For this project, I tell them that it needs to be someone from school but NOT me and that I would love it if they wrote a letter to me later on! The idea, besides reviewing friendly letter form, is to allow the child to let another person know how he/she is making a difference and that the child is grateful for what that person does.
2. Review Friendly Letter Format
I usually teach 4th or 5th graders, so friendly letter form is something most of them understand and just a quick review is all that is needed to jog their memories. If you teach younger students, you might need to spend a little more time teaching the friendly letter format. There are several different formats now for the friendly letter, (traditional, block with indents, and block without indents) so you can choose whichever one you are required to use or whichever one you like if you’re not bound to one in particular (I have all 3 formats included in this free set).
One thing I like to do when we review is to have all of the kids get out their whiteboards (we keep these in our desks) and do some “scribble writing” to show me what they think a friendly letter’s shape should look like. This 2 minute assessment gives me a good idea of how much we’ll need to review.
After that, I like to go step by step and show or make a ‘fake” but fun letter to someone (the principal, a popular singer/actor/athlete…) and we name the parts of the friendly letter as we go… the heading, the greeting, the body, the closing, the signature. Once we go over this, we do a scribble writing again on the whiteboards to make sure that everyone is on the right track for the letter.
One thing I do have the kids change from a typical letter is their address. I have everyone use the school’s address as their address for two reasons. One is that you might be surprised how many kids don’t know their exact address, and the second reason is just to protect the child’s address for privacy reasons, since I don’t send permission notes home to parents for the activity.
Besides the letter’s format, we do brainstorm how to start, and what kinds of things we might say in the letter. I always tell them that specific stories and remembrances are a great thing to add and I stress the idea that we need to take our time and to put some thought into the letter.
We also talk about the fact that this is a real letter, and not just an assignment to be turned in and we discuss how important the letters will be to the people reading them. This is a really good time to emphasize quality work.
3. Finishing the Letters
Besides writing the letters, I like kids to personalize them even more with an illustration. I show the kids how to make a simple border and add to it (flowers, geometric shapes, favorite things…). Instead of a border, they may also draw a picture on the bottom, the back or on a separate page. I also give them an envelope and show them where to write the person’s name and their name on it and how to fold the letter to make it fit nicely in the envelope. The kids may also decorate the envelope if they’d like to.
4. Delivering the Letters
Once each child’s letter is completed, I let each student deliver the letter to the recipient. I try to choose times to send them that aren’t disruptive to that person’s schedule or to our own.
A few minutes before recess or lunch is a good time to deliver the letters usually. If a recipient is not there on our delivery day, the child walks the letter to the office and the staff there puts these into the person’s box, to find when he/she returns.
I really love this activity for so many reasons. I love that it gently “forces”, I mean “encourages” kids to think about how grateful they are for the people in their school life and that they hopefully realize how expressing that gratitude means a lot to the person receiving it.
I also love how warm and fuzzy the letters make our school staff feel. Out of the blue, for a custodian, a librarian, or the lunch lady to find out that he/she is making a difference in the lives of kids is a beautiful thing!
If you’d like to download all of the forms I use for this KIT (Keep in Touch) letter writing activity, please visit my store, where you’ll find them for free!
Looking for more end of the year activities? Here are two resources that are loaded with interactive fun! The End of the Year Activities (Set 1) actually includes this KIT activity and you’ll also love the End of the Year Activities (Set 2)
Also, if you need a memory book, editable awards, or even a 3rd – 5th grade Literacy Set for the End of the Year, I have one for 3rd – 5th grades that includes both print AND digital formats!
Happy end of the year!