K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education


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  • Yarns, whoppers, and tall tales: The following lessons will introduce students to characteristics of tall tales and help them develop an appreciation of this genre of American fiction. They will practice writing summaries from information they have gathered and organized. They will plan and write their own tall tales.
  • Giving can be fun: The purpose of this lesson is to incorporate the use of writing in a friendly letter format to foster the spirit of giving and sharing within the classroom. Using word processing, the students will create a friendly letter that will be shared with classmates in the spirit of giving and sharing.
  • Narrative writing: Using exact words: The learner will recognize exact verbs in literature and then use more exact verbs when writing a narrative.

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • respond to listening through multimedia sources.
  • compose a fictional friendly letter.
  • listen to a partial reading of a fictional picture book written entirely in a friendly-letter format using a formal style.
  • create a similar letter using formal word choice and sentence structures.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

3 Days


Technology resources

  • Computer lab with word processing program and printers
  • Document camera or overhead projector


  • Students should have been introduced to the conventional form of a friendly letter (return address, date, address of recipient, salutation, body, closing, and signature).
  • Students should have a basic understanding of word processing. Students should be familiar with the fairy tale and story book characters in the picture book Dear Peter Rabbit by Alma Flor Ada.
  • The teacher should have knowledge of an acceptable form for friendly letters (from their text book, resource book, or internet source for educators)


  1. Students will come into the library and sit in the instructional area (with tables and chairs). The students will be introduced to the picture book Dear Peter Rabbit and the author, Alma Flor Ada. Review and elicit from students the name of some familiar characters from storybooks and fairy tales. Using the title, prompt children to predict what writing form might be used in the book. Confirm that the book is written in a letter format. Ask students to listen as the teacher reads several of the letters.
  2. After reading the seventh letter (or at a point when the students show they know exactly what should happen next) ask students to predict which character might write the next letter and what it might say. Allow one or two students to respond. Rather than hearing all the responses, explain that the students will now have the opportunity to compose the next letter.
  3. Using the document camera (or other projection device), display one of the letters from the book. Point out the formal words and phrases and sentence structures used in the letter. Make a list of the different words used for formal salutations and closings in formal letters: Dear, Sincerely, Affectionately, Your dear friend, Gratefully yours, etc. Other formal language: “the forthcoming event,” “distasteful,” “abode,” “rather offensive.” Also identify formal phrases, such as “We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.”
  4. Give small groups of students copies of other letters from this book and the companion book, Yours Truly, Goldilocks (also by Alma Flor Ada). Have them highlight examples of formal words, phrases, and sentences and share their discoveries with the rest of the class.
  5. Display a conventional friendly letter form. Students should understand that their letter will include each part of the letter form. Go over each part and ask for examples for that part (salutation = Dear Peter Rabbit, etc.).
  6. Explain that they will write a rough draft during the first lesson. Have students choose a storybook character to write the letter and another character to be the recipient. The classroom teacher will explain the rubric and how it will be used to grade their letters. Have students read their rough drafts to their partner using a formal voice. Identify any words, phrases, and sentences in the draft that are formal. Revise any words, phrases and sentences that are too informal.
  7. After the revisions are made, the students will take their final copy to the computer lab and print it using a word processing program. They may also add illustrations from clip art if desired.
  8. Ask a student to pass out materials. Monitor students and answer questions as they compose a rough draft.


Use the writing assessment rubric, focusing on the style questions.

Supplemental information

Related book titles:

  • Yours Truly Goldilocks and With Love, Little Red Hen by Ada Flor Alma
  • The Jolly Postman, and The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet Ahlberg.
  • Dear Alexandra: A Story of Switzerland by Helen Gudel. Daily activities of life in the mountains of Switzerland.
  • Dear Annie by Judith Caseley. Relationship with Grandparent
  • Dear Daddy by John Schindel. Relationship with parent
  • Dear Emma by Johanna Hurwitz. Immigrants, Jews, Orphans. Further reading of letter style writing.
  • Dear Mr. Blueberry by Simon James. Science, Animals. A young girl corresponds with her teacher about a whale she has found. In the process many attributes of the whale and whale life are named.
  • Along the same lines is Thank You, Santa by Margaret Wild. Samantha sends a thank you note to Santa from Australia. They become pen pals and she learns about the wild life at the North Pole.
  • Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary. Divorce, Parent and child. Further reading of letter style writing.
  • The Gardener by Sarah Stewart. City and town life
  • My Grandma, My Penpal by Jan Dale Koutsky. Relationship with grandparent


Originally this lesson was created for a library activity only. A fourth grade teacher indicated interest and the result was this collaboration. The teacher introduces the friendly format form in the classroom. In the library, the students hear the story, review the letter form and begin their rough draft. The letters are completed in the classroom and corrected. The students may go as a class to the computer lab with their teacher, or with the technology instructor or in small groups, whatever works best at the school site.

The related book titles provide other letter starting ideas and offer longer fiction choices for students interested in reading other books in letter form.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Writing

        • Grade 3
          • 3.W.4 With guidance and support from adults, produce writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)
        • Grade 4
          • 4.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 4

  • Goal 4: The learner will apply strategies and skills to create oral, written, and visual texts.
    • Objective 4.09: Produce work that follows the conventions of particular genres (e.g., personal and imaginative narrative, research reports, learning logs, letters of request, letters of complaint).

Information Skills (2000)

Grade 4

  • Goal 5: The learner will COMMUNICATE reading, listening, and viewing experiences.
    • Objective 5.01: Respond to reading, listening, viewing experiences orally, artistically, dramatically, through various formats (e.g., print, multimedia).
    • Objective 5.02: Produce media in various formats (print, graphical, audio, video, multimedia) appropriate to audience and purpose.