As an extension into our current Unit of Inquiry on Storytelling, a writing center in the form of a Post Office was set up as a provocation to promote using writing as a way to convey meaning when sharing our ideas. With the idea that reading and writing complement each other, our class has been working on letter writing and reading to communicate personal stories.
Students showed an interest in the writing center and were enthusiastic about writing and receiving letters to their moms, dads, brothers, sisters, friends and more! However, we did notice that not everyone fully understood the process of writing letters and what that looks like in a real world setting. While our students have enjoyed writing letters, using stamps and putting them in the mailbox, the process was still a bit a of mystery to them. Some questions that came up were:
- Who is this letter for?
- Why do we need to put a stamp?
- Who wrote this letter?
- What message can I write in my letter?
- How does the message know where to go?
- What happens now?
This gave us an idea! We decided to invite the grade 1 & 3 class into Peace & Unity. We heard they had been doing some letter writing in their class and thought it would be a great opportunity for Peace & Unity students to learn specific writing skills from their elder peers. Our friends from grades 1 & 3 were very enthusiastic to support our inquiry. They visited us and talked to the students about the important elements in letter writing. They also showed us how to write and post a letter and demonstrated another way to be an effective communicator.
Step One – Shared Writing Experience
Our first order of business was getting into groups. Each Primary student took 3 or 4 Peace & Unity students to work with. Everyone had a blank sample letter, a pencil and lots of ideas! The older students talked about letters: how they worked, where information went and why stamps are so important. They answered questions the Peace & Unity students may have asked them, which allowed for us to build on our knowledge about the writing and mailing process.
Step Two – Writing our Letters
Once the talking was out of the way, it was time to get down to business. First, everyone decided who they were going to write their letter to. There were a lot of different ideas, but most of the letters went to Mom and Dad. This step allowed students to demonstrate their printing and literacy skills. With a little spelling help everyone was able to fill in the To section of their letter. The From section was no trouble, as the students have developed their name-writing skills with regular practice each morning. Next it was time to write the body; some drew pictures, some wrote a collection of letters and others used mark making to convey their ideas. This experience provided opportunities for students to express themselves, represent their ideas and share their thoughts with others.
Step Three – Stamping our Letters
Once the letters were finished it was time to put a stamp on them. Our friends had already taught us that letters without stamps won’t make it to the right place, so we made sure they had one. Students had two options: use a rubber stamp with ink or design their own stamp and glue it on. Some of us got very creative when designing our own stamps.
Step Four – Mailing our Letters
The final step was everyone’s favourite: mailing the letter! Everyone’s letters were carefully posted into the Mail Box. Our next steps as a class are to now have these letters delivered to the right people.
With our letters safely posted, it was time for some quality time with our big buddies. We read books with them, they showed us some of their work on their iPads and we even got a chance to show them our favourite classroom spaces. Having the older kids in our class let Peace & Unity continue to develop their teamwork skills through cooperating with older peers. It was insightful to observe the peer interactions with no conflicts at all. All too soon, it was time for them to go, we said Thank You and Goodbye and they went back to their own classroom. We hope to keep this buddy system ongoing and create more experiences to collaborate with the primary students.
Peer learning is the process of students learning with and from one another as fellow learners. Especially in small groups, peer learning nurtures and fosters the development of: self-directed learning skills, critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, interpersonal and teamwork, along with learning through critical reflection and peer-assessments.
Read more about How Peer Teaching Improves Student Learning.
Since this shared experience, the Peace & Unity students have been putting their knowledge and letter writing skills into action. The Post Office remains a popular space for inquiry and work, where students better understand how their postcards should be filled out. Students ask each other who their letters are for and remind each other to put a stamp on them.
To continue practicing writing at home, you can encourage and work with your child on different writing tasks. Here are some ideas:
- Write a thank you note to someone who has helped you
- Write/draw your favorite part of a story book
- Write a letter to a friend
- Write/draw the grocery list
For more information about the different types of pre-writing activities children participate in on their way to becoming writers, check out this blog post from Scholastic.