This lesson would form part of a larger unit on letter writing; an example of a transactional text. It is assumed that students have explored all different types of letters, reading and deconstructing them.
This lesson demonstrates how a teacher and their students can jointly construct a letter to a pen pal through the practice of shared writing. Through the joint construction of an enlarged piece of text, the teacher models, seeks ideas from the cohort and makes explicit links to the learning intention. The text is either handwritten or digitally produced by the teacher.
Note for teachers
A letter is a form of a transactional text. Its structure will vary according to the audience and its purpose. However, these elements are generally included:
- address of the writer
- date the letter is written
- a traditional greeting (e.g. Dear)
- body of the letter is written in paragraphs
- a traditional closure (e.g. Kind regards, Yours sincerely, Best wishes, Love, From)
- the name of the writer or signature of the writer is included at the end of the letter.
(Wing Jan, 2009, p. 202)
Links to the Victorian Curriculum – English
English, Reading and Viewing, Language:Text structure and organisation
- Understand how different types of texts vary in use of language choices, depending on their purpose, audience and context, including tense and types of sentences (VCELA246)
- Identify features used in imaginative, informative and persuasive texts to meet the purpose of the text, and understand how texts vary in complexity and technicality depending on the approach to the topic, the purpose and the intended audience (VCELA277)
English, Writing, Language: Text structure and organisation
- Understand that paragraphs are a key organisational feature of written texts (VCELA259)
- Understand how texts are made cohesive through the use of linking devices including pronoun reference and text connectives (VCELA290)
English, Writing, Language: Expressing and developing ideas
- Understand that a clause is a unit of grammar usually containing a subject and a verb and that these need to be in agreement (VCELA261)
- Understand that the meaning of sentences can be enriched through the use of noun groups/phrases and verb groups/phrases and prepositional phrases (VCELA292)
English, Writing, Literacy: Creating texts
- Plan, draft and publish imaginative, informative and persuasive texts demonstrating increasing control over text structures and language features and selecting print and multimodal elements appropriate to the audience and purpose (VCELY266)
- Plan, draft and publish imaginative, informative and persuasive texts containing key information and supporting details for a widening range of audiences, demonstrating increasing control over text structures and language features (VCELY299)
Links to the Victorian Curriculum – English as an Additional Language (EAL)
Speaking and listening
- Take turns to speak or listen during class interactions
- Speak or listen appropriately during class interactions
- Participate appropriately in social and learning situations
- Respond appropriately during different classroom activities
Reading and viewing
- Understand and explore the basic layout and conventions of simple texts
- Understand the purpose and organisational features of simple text types
- Understand the purpose and organisational features of common text types
- Interpret the purpose and organisational features of different text types
- Create basic texts, with support and modelling
- Write very short, simple texts
- Sequence a small number of ideas simply
- Contribute ideas to shared writing activities
- Understand the difference between writing and drawing, and that writing changes according to context and purpose
- Write or dictate in sentences or phrases that match oral sentence structures
- Create short, simple texts for particular purposes, with some support and modelling
- Attempt to write paragraphs and topic sentences
- Sequence ideas simply, using short sentences or statements
- Contribute to shared simple brainstorming of ideas and identify relevant vocabulary to be incorporated into the written work
- Write using language that largely reflects features of spoken language
- Create a small range of texts based on modelling
- Write simple paragraphs with a logical sequence of sentences
- Use simple time sequence markers and pronoun references to connect ideas in a text
- Plan, with support, the format of a text according to its communicative purpose
- Write using language that is beginning to reflect the features of written language more than the features of spoken language
- Organise texts in simple, logically ordered paragraphs with topic sentences
- Use a range of devices to maintain cohesion
- Follow a simple planning, drafting and revision process when writing
- Present work appropriately for purpose and audience
We are learning how to organise and write a letter to our pen pal.
- I can share and contribute ideas towards the shared writing of a class letter
- At the end of the session, I can tell a partner how a letter is organised.
- Read the learning intention. Contextualise the task by explaining what a pen pal is and how this cohort of students is going to write to another group of students, in the same year level at another school. To prepare students to write their own letter, the group will practise first with a jointly constructed letter.
- Students need to establish their audience first. Knowing their audience and the purpose for their writing will determine how they write the letter. To assist this understanding, view the school website of the letter recipients. What features are like this school? What features are different? What is interesting about the new school? How could this information help us write a letter to an unknown pen pal? Students turn and talk about their observations from the website. The teacher lists these observations to assist with the formation of the letter content.
- The teacher and students read the success criteria so they know what is expected during and at the conclusion of the session.
- Begin the letter by modelling how to write the school address on the top left hand side of the page. Discuss the use of proper nouns to signal school name, street name, and suburb. A date is also added underneath. For example:
Parklands West Primary School
21 June, 2018
- Explain that a letter must be addressed to a particular person or group of people. In this case, this letter will be sent to the class teacher and all its students. The teacher’s name is Ms Carli so her name and the grade need to be included in the greeting. An opportunity to discuss abbreviations such as Mr, Mrs, Ms, Miss could also occur, contributing to an anchor chart which will assist independent student letter writing at a later stage. For example:
Dear Ms Carli and students from 3/4C,
- As the letter recipients do not know their senders, an introduction should be included in the first instance. Ask students to contribute their ideas to an introduction and record. As the teacher records, reinforce correct setting out (i.e. return to the left-hand side and begin with a capital letter), the importance of sentence boundary punctuation and track pronoun referencing to make the letter more cohesive. For example:
- Hello from all of us at Bushfield Primary. We are very excited that you have agreed to write to us. (Pronoun references-us and we refer to students at Bushfield Primary. You and your refer to students at Parklands West Primary).
- Referring to the brainstormed list, ask students to contribute to the next set of content. Reinforce the importance of paragraphs and the inclusion of a topic sentence. With student input, the teacher writes, (for example):
We looked at your school website and saw you have a canteen. Our school is very small so we don’t have one. Sometimes we have a special day where we can order lunch, but it is not very often. We wish we could order lunch like you can every day. What is your favourite thing to eat from your canteen?
(Topic sentence in bold. The rest of the paragraph contains information and examples relating to school canteens).
- A new paragraph is signalled by a change in topic, time or place. Once again, ask for student input and refers to the brainstormed list. Photos of an Art Show on the school website were noted. Comparison was made with Bushfield’s Writers’ Festival. With student input, the teacher writes, (for example):
We noticed your school celebrated an Art Show this year. We saw some of the art work and we think it looked spectacular. We really like the class sculpture of the giant cow! It must have taken a lot of work to design and make it. Our school has a Writers’ Festival. You can find some photos of our writing on our school blog.
(Topic sentence in bold. The rest of the paragraph contains information and examples relating to school special events).
- Model the letter closure including a concluding sentence and closing greeting. Discuss how the audience will determine what sort of closure to include (more formal or less formal). Ask students to turn and talk with a partner to brainstorm as many closing greetings as possible. Add to class anchor chart. With student input, the teacher writes, (for example):
We are looking forward to hearing all the news about your school,
- Lastly, the letter must include a signing off from the writer. Draw attention to how this is recorded including placement and use of proper nouns for names. For example:
Ms Nicholls and students from 3/4N,
- Read over the letter to check for sense. Return to the success criteria. Ask students to turn and talk to a new partner. When writing a letter, what are the features to include? The teacher roves group to monitor responses. Return to the main group and annotate the shared writing with student responses.
Wing Jan, L. (2009). Write Ways: Modelling Writing Forms (3rd Ed.), South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.
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