Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Teaching Kids to Write: The Author's Purpose and Writing to Communicate
This is a guest post by Rhonda McDonald, a Title 1 Reading Specialist in Botetourt County Public Schools, Virginia and author of two books in our Kaleidoscope Collection: Polar Bears and The White Whale. She has been writing a series of posts on teaching children to write; you can view her earlier posts by clicking here!

The Author's Purpose: 
Writing to Communicate

“Why do we need to learn to write?” That is a valid question raised by many of our children and our students. In this blog entry, we will explore writing to communicate. Students need a reason for the practice of writing. We sometimes call this Author’s Purpose. In this age of texting and e-mail, many forms of writing have been abbreviated to the extent that written communication has been lost. Let’s consider some forms of writing to communicate.

GROCERY/SHOPPING LISTS

Ask students to help plan a trip to the grocery store by making a grocery list. Let them read labels and pick out items on the shelf from the list. They may want to include items to pack in their lunch box, plan out a special meal, or plan items to buy for a birthday party. For your own children, keep a notepad in a special place in your kitchen to write grocery requests. Some of these notepads have a magnet on the back to place on a refrigerator door.

NOTES

Write notes to your students or children to encourage them at school:

  • “Have a great day at school!”
  • “I’ll be thinking of you today on your field trip. Have fun!”

Post-It notes are great for this short type of communication. Tuck the note into a lunchbox or bookbag. Give them a blank Post-It or notecard and ask them to write a note back to you about how their day was or something special that happened.

Model note-writing by writing short notes to a teacher in an assignment book.

Brief notes can be nonthreatening reminders to complete chores.

  • “Don’t forget to feed the cat.”
  • “Please fold the towels in the clothes dryer.”

Ask your children to write notes to you as reminders:

  • “Mom, don’t forget to wash my basketball uniform. I have a game after school tomorrow.”

Place a note on the dash of the car as a reminder.

  • “Take lunch money to Ted.”
  • “Parent/Teacher Conference at 4:00”

POSTCARDS/GREETING CARDS/INVITATIONS

When traveling to new places, I like to send postcards to my students. When I receive one from them, it is a special treat. This is practical writing that shows they are adept at the writing skills that were taught in class. This task takes little time due to the small space on a post card. Students are excited to receive their very own piece of mail. These were written by rising second-grade students.

 

In class, design a post card of a place you have been studying or to a place they would like to go. Design a postcard to a character from a book they have read. Make up a creative address:

Winnie the Pooh
503 Hunny Pot Lane
The Hundred Acre Woods, WV 27604

All sorts of creative ideas may go into designing greeting cards or invitations. Cut the card into an animal shape. Make up a verse or short poem for the inside message:

This little panda would like to
Send a special birthday wish to you.
Celebrate and have a blast!
As you remember the year that’s past.

Valentine’s Day is a fun time to practice making cards to send to classmates.

Ask children to design an invitation to an event (birthday party, swim party, cookout, sleepover, skate party, baseball game, etc.). Include important information:

  • WHAT
  • WHEN
  • WHERE
  • TIME
  • WHAT TO BRING
  • CONTACT INFORMATION (RSVP)

Decorate with colorful markers, stickers or glitter.

LETTERS/PEN PALS/ENVELOPES

Teach the students to correctly write their address on a lined piece of paper. When they have mastered the proper spacing and information, transfer the information to an envelope.

Ask them to pick a friend in class and exchange addresses with them. Use this friend’s address on the practice envelope. Talk about the return address and the address of the letter. It may help to draw boxes on the envelope as a guide to enclose the 2 addresses. They may wish to draw a stamp in the upper right hand corner of the practice envelope. Talk about the information included in the address, state abbreviations and zip codes.

  

Wishy-Washy Letter from the Joy Cowley Early Birds series is a fun book to read with children when you talk about the job of a stamp on an envelope. Mrs. Wishy Washy’s animals thought they should STAMP on the envelope with their feet.

There are many excellent children’s books that tell a story by writing letters to various characters. Children can see models in these books for a friendly letters or postcards.

Letter-writing to friends, family members, or pen pals will provide practice in written expression. To actually send the letter and receive one back is exciting.

LETTER WRITING CENTER: You may want to have a mailbox in your classroom for interclass mail. A student could be selected as the designated mailman each week to deliver letters on a particular day of the week. Provide colored paper or stationary for the letter writing center. Thank-you letters to grandparents or relatives for birthday or holiday gifts are fun to write.

E-MAIL: Some schools may have the capability for students to write and send interschool e-mail. The content should be approved by an adult prior to sending the e-mail.

SKYPE: If your school has the ability to Skype with a school in another part of the country or world, this is an exciting exchange and an opportunity to meet pen pals. One of our first-grade classes in Virginia had the opportunity to Skype with a class in Tanzania, Africa where my daughter was teaching for a year. The time difference was a challenge, but we were able to work that out. It was an amazing experience for both classes as the image was projected onto an interactive Promethean board. The children talked, sang, and answered questions about their school.

In closing, I would like to reinforce the purpose of writing to communicate. Provide your students with an intended audience. It will motivate them to produce their very best writing!


For more information on the Kaleidoscope Collection containing books written by this author, you can download an information sheet by clicking on the image below. To learn more about the Joy Cowley Early Birds series, which includes the book shown in this post, click here to visit our website, or click the image to the right below for the information sheet for that series.

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