Writing a Letter to Santa

The lead up to Christmas is a great time of year to focus on letter writing skills with students. Most kids love the idea of writing to Santa, so it’s a good way to get kids motivated to write a letter. If Santa is not appropriate or children are too old for Santa letters, scroll down to the bottom of the page for some other letter writing ideas.

Just Learning to Write

Make up a standard ‘letter to Santa’ printout (I just use Word). You might include Santa’s ‘address’ at the top, “To Santa”, “For Christmas I want…” and “From”. Perhaps even have these words written in a light grey so children can trace them (use whatever the standard cursive print is for your region). Make sure you leave enough space for children with large handwriting to fill the gaps. On the board brainstorm words children might use in their letters, eg: things they might ask for for Christmas, what sort of food they might leave for Santa. Encourage children to include a picture (especially early finishers).

EXAMPLE Santa letter — feel free to print out and use (font is Victorian Modern Cursive)

More Confident Writers

Brainstorm with children what sort of things need to be included in a letter (address at the top, date, to/from). Give children a minimum amount of paragraphs/sentences they must include (depending on age group). Early finishers can decorate their letters with a border/picture and/or mount on coloured card.

Email

If you are a bit more technologically minded you could set up a Santa email account for children to send emails to. Talk with children about the differences between traditional letters and emails. Use the opportunity to talk about email etiquette and making sure children are careful to type the exact address.

Other Letter Writing Opportunities at This Time of Year (or When Santa Letters aren’t Appropriate)

Perhaps Santa letters aren’t appropriate for your class (for religious/social/other reasons) or perhaps you would like to extend the letter writing unit over a few lessons. Here are a few other letter writing ideas for this time of the year:

– Write a letter to a loved one/friend who lives far away.

– Make Christmas cards for family and friends.

– Exchange letters/cards in class.

For Older Students

– If you can make a connection with a school/class overseas, get children to write to a pen pal all about Christmas in their country and hopefully they’ll receive one back and learn about Christmas in another country.

– Write a letter to Jesus (or other appropriate religious figure).

National Poetry Week

It’s National Poetry Week this week, so why not take the opportunity to introduce your students to some different forms of poetry. I’ve got examples of poetry you can try across the various age groups. Once students have finished writing their poems, get them to ‘publish’ them by typing them up and mounting them on coloured card (and decorate with a border/illustrations).

Acrostic Poems

Acrostic poems are a nice basic form of poetry for young students. Take a word (like ‘Spring’) and get students to describe the word using the letters that form the word, either using single words or sentences. Brainstorm ideas on the board before students go back to desks. If students are too young too write the poem themselves, do one together as a class.  eg:

Sun is shining

Pollen fills the air

Rabbits hop in fields

I feel warm

New blossoms on trees

Going on a picnic

Haiku

Haikus are great for teaching syllables, since each line needs a specific syllable count. They are also quite short, which is perfect for younger students. A haiku has three lines: line one has 5 syllables; line two has 7 syllables; line three has 5 syllables. Practise clapping out syllables before you start. Example of a haiku:

Rain is falling down,

Pitter, patter on the ground,

Filling dams and streams.

Rhyming Couplets

Rhyming couplets are one of the simplest forms of poetry; it is a poem made up of pairs of lines that rhyme. There are lots of examples of rhyming couplets in classic poetry you can use to show students as examples (try Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales or Banjo Patterson). For older/more advanced students you can introduce the concept of meter, meaning the couplets should have a matching syllable count and matching rhythm. Here is an example from the opening lines of a picture book I’m working on:

There was a young boy from a faraway place,

Who woke up one morning with spots on his face.

He looked in the mirror and got quite a fright,

The spots on his face were a worrisome sight.

The spots were strange colours, like purple and blue,

And right on his nose was an orange spot too.

How the spots got there, young Jim did not know,

But one thing was certain, those spots had to go.

Limericks

Limericks are humourous poems with a specific rhyme scheme. I’m sure you can find lots of silly/fun examples to share with students (try Edward Lear). A limerick has five lines. The 1st, 2nd and 5th lines rhyme and the 3rd and 4th lines rhyme. The 3rd and 4th lines have a shorter syllable count than the 1st, 2nd and 5th. Limericks also have a specific rhythm/meter, which you can easily pick up by reading a few aloud. Traditionally the first line introduces a person and place. Example of a limerick:

There was a young girl from China,

Whose dresses couldn’t be finer,

Until she fell down,

A hole in the ground,

And now she looks like a miner.

My Dad Thinks He’s Funny

Here’s a Father’s Day Literacy activity you can do using the fantastically funny picture book My Dad Thinks He’s Funny by Australian author Katrina Germein and illustrated by Tom Jellett.

1. Read kids the picture book ‘My Dad Thinks He’s Funny’ if you can get a hold of it. If not, discuss funny things dads say using these examples:

“My dad doesn’t like babysitting. He doesn’t think anyone should sit on babies. And he also doesn’t lie in bed. He says you should always tell the truth.”

2. Ask kids if their dads (or other adults) ever say any of the funny things from the book.

(Bonus: For older kids you can discuss puns and whether they know of any other puns.)

3. Brainstorm some more funny things students’ dads (or other adults) say. Write them on whiteboard or large piece of paper.

4. Get kids to go back to tables and write about something funny their dad (or other adult) has said or done. They can use brainstormed ideas on the board for inspiration or think of something else. (For older kids you might like them to focus on using puns.)

5. Kids who finish early can draw an illustration to go with their funny story.

6. Share stories as a class.

Bonus: Get kids to ‘publish’ their stories by typing them up and mounting them on coloured card with an illustration to give to their dads (or other special adult) for Father’s Day.

What’s Your Excuse?

Write on the whiteboard/blackboard this line:

“Why haven’t you done your homework?”

Then tell students you want them to write the most bizarre, ludicrous, creative explanation they can think of. Give an example for those who may have trouble starting, such as ‘I was in my room trying to do my homework when a beam of light came through my window and transported me to an alien spaceship…’ Cater the example to the age group, for a younger group you might simply say, ‘I was abducted by aliens’. Younger students may only have to write one sentence, but older students should be given a minimum, such as three paragraphs.

This is a great writing exercise for reluctant writers as it gives them the opportunity to write something silly and fun. Because it is open-ended, eager writers have the opportunity to write an entire story if they wish, while less confident writers can simply write the minimum specified by the teacher.

Age group: