Friday, November 24, 2017

Santa Letters Simplified


Dear Santa, "I want it ALL!" No, not really, but how often does it seem our students and own kiddos (if we are being honest) want ANYTHING and EVERYTHING for Christmas.

Every year come December, our students write a letter to Santa (religious beliefs and parents permitting). The letters are sent to our local newspaper and printed. This is a great way for our students to practice another writing skill, but let me be honest for a second... it can be STRESSFUL! It was one of those times that I absolutely DREADED teaching writing (not to mention it took FOR-EVER).

Last year, I decided I had enough of the dread. There had to be an easier way to get the letters written without the frustration. After all, writing a letter to Santa should be exciting! I came up with a simple plan that made this process easier (and less painful for all 😉)


Below is what I do in my own classroom that made writing letters to Santa fun and stressfree.

Brainstorm


One of the first steps is to create a "wish list" as a class using an anchor chart. Now, I'm not sure about your class but when I would have them brainstorm independently I would have several things happen. First, their lists went on, and on and on for which seemed like an eternity. Next, some didn't know what to write or would get bogged down in not knowing how to spell. Oh, and I can't forget the dreaded phrase, "I can't find my paper!!" Yep, happens at least once,  EVERY...TIME!

When the brainstorming stage is brought to the carpet it allows us to come up with great ideas together. We stretch out sounds, listen for "chunks" we know, point out how we have to capitalize names of toys and many other skills we might quickly cover as a teaching moment happens.

Graphic Organizer

After we brainstorm what we might "want" for Christmas, we move to filling in our graphic organizer. This is done the day after we brainstorm. Too many steps + too quickly = frustration for all.

I came up with the organizer after being frustrated by the process and what I read in their letters. Now, let me be very honest with you... It wasn't any one's fault but my own. I needed a clearer way for my students to SEE what I wanted them to include

My students knew the parts of a letter, but that truly wasn't enough. I needed to slow down, back up a bit and dig deeper into teaching what their letter should include. 

I knew I wanted them to begin the letter by asking Santa a question and not with the statement, "I want." Next, they needed to thank him for something they received the year before.  After they completed both of those sentences they could begin telling Santa what they wanted. I also wanted them to include something they NEEDED. It is a great time to throw in a mini-lesson differentiating needs and wants. 😉 I will tell you that including something they need can be enlightening to circumstances they face at home and heartbreaking. 






I like to pull up the organizer on my Smart Board and read each question as a class. They fill in their answers as we go. I also stress answering the questions in a COMPLETE SENTENCE. If they will write in complete sentences on their organizer it SAVES TIME when they write their letter. 


Santa Letter Template

 
Once their organizers are complete we can move to the final step. Can I get a Yipee?!!



Now that the organizer is finished, they take what they have written and add it to the letter writing paper. The order of the organizer is the same order they will write their letter. This helped to save time in figuring out what order they would write their sentences. 

An extra tidbit that I almost forgot....I like to write one as a class before handing them the reigns to complete their own. This helps them to visually see what they will do. Not to mention, some want to begin a new line for every new sentence. 

Writing one together allows me to include a mini-lesson on when we write letters our sentences don't need to start on a new line every time. 

I  hope this template saves you time, energy and some of your 😉sanity when you write Santa letters. To download your own free copy click HERE.

I would love to know what you find frustrating when teaching writing. You can add to the comments below. 


Blessings,



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