Is Letter Writing A Lost Art?

Yesterday’s poll on Reading Rockets asks the question “Is letter writing (formal and informal) included in your writing curriculum?” While most respondents said yes, 20% said no. Some comments went on to say that letter writing is important, but in our society today, very few people actually write letters any longer.

Our Third Grade Writing Calendar focus in December is letter writing. In my classroom, we refocus and clarify some misunderstandings the students have developed as we write letters all the time.  The students are required to write a Reading Response Letter to me at least once a week, we have penpals in another state, and we write thank you notes as needed.  My own thinking is that functional writing such as Letter Writing is and needs to be…. well, functional. We learn as we use. Yesterday, I demonstrated a few tricks for lining up heading, closing and signature (a partial “pinch” in the half rolled page) and used the vocabulary of letter writing more purposefully, but really, we’ve been learning by doing since September. Don’t take my word for it though, here’s more from Reading Rockets Blog.

Granted, my most common form of personal communication today is either email or IM/Texting. So why teach letter writing? Well, I for one enjoy the feel of a letter in my hand — one that comes in the mail with a postmark from some known or unknown locale. I enjoy reading and rereading letters when I receive them; it makes me want to respond and keep the conversations going. I’ve noticed this same reaction from my students when we correspond to one another through Reading Response letters. Children always flip through their Reading Notebooks to find what I wrote back — and inevitably, I’ll get that child’s new response back in my In Box before the end of the day. None of us wants to break the chain.

So for me, letter writing is not lost, just somewhat unappreciated in our lightening speed world. There’s a place for electronic communications and even if I had the choice, I wouldn’t be able to live without it. But there is also a place for a thoughtful, well-written letter. I don’t plan to join that 20% not teaching letter writing any time soon.

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