Writing letters to family members
        “Dear Grandma, i miss you. i lost a tooth. i like school. love, Terry.”

        What grandparent, aunt and uncle, cousin, or friend wouldn’t like a few happy words from a beloved child whom he hasn’t seen in a long time?

        Many families are now sending greeting cards to loved ones many miles away. This is a terrific time to get your children into the process. We teachers call this authentic writing -- writing for a purpose. 

        With a pair of scissors cut a plain piece of paper to be about the same size as the card you are sending. Let your little ones loose with a variety of pens, pencils, markers, or crayons.
        It probably will not be reasonable to expect each child to enclose a note with each card. Some relatives may get a note from each child. Some may get only one. Each child is presented with different expectations.

        * Preschoolers and kindergartners may not have a handle on letter formation; nor will some of them be able to write their names. We encourage their scribbles, call it “writing,” and praise their inclusion in the process. This sets the tone for future positive attitudes about writing.

        * By the middle of the year, most first-graders can write several coherent sentences.
        * Second- through fifth-graders can write a paragraph to update correspondents about their lives. Their nascent art skills give any note a touch of personality.

        * If you have a computer, that may make the job easier. If notes are mass-produced, be sure to add some artistic touch to personalize it for each recipient.

        In the event that you have already sent out your cards and letters to families, it is not too late to get the children involved. After all, they can respond to greetings, letters, and photos sent to your household from other people.

        By including your children in the process of writing to others, you have several equally important concepts to put into motion: you are valuing your child’s contribution to your activities, spending enjoyable family time together, and placing a value on the importance of writing. 

        This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children Well: A Teacher’s  Advice for Parents.

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