Letters of Advice and Encouragement
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
- Unit Plan:
As soon as Despereaux arrives in the dungeon, students write him letters of advice and encouragement. They review the format for writing a letter. The class discusses the words advice and encouragement and how they apply to Despereaux's situation. After writing their letters, students proofread their letters and a partner's letter. They glue their letters to construction paper and make borders using symbols from the book.
- Review the format for a letter.
- Discuss advice and encouragement and generate examples of each.
- Write a letter to Despereaux.
- Proofread their work and a partner's work.
- Learn about symbols and make a border using symbols from the book.
- Four or five pieces of chart paper and marker.
- Letter Template (PDF), one for each student
- Proofreading Checklist (PDF), one for each student
- 12" X 18" pieces of white construction paper, one per student
- Pencils, rulers
- Markers, crayons, silver and gold metallic pens
Set Up and Prepare
- Write advice and encouragement on top of two pieces of chart paper.
- Make a sample of letter format on chart paper showing the date, greeting, body, closing, and signature.
- Make copies of the Letter Template (PDF) and Proofreading Checklist (PDF) for each student.
- Write the word symbols on the top of chart paper.
Discuss advice and encouragement, and record meanings and examples of each on chart paper.
Review the letter format using the large template on chart paper.
Distribute individual Letter Templates and Proofreading Checklists.
Students begin writing letters while teacher circulates to help those who are stuck.
Students continue working on first copy of letter. Teacher encourages students to add on and "fancy up" their writing.
As students complete first copies, they check their work using the Proofreading Checklist. Then they exchange letters with a partner for double-checking.
Students who have checked their letters and had partner double-check their work, meet with teacher for writing conference.
Students make final copies of letters.
Teacher and students discuss symbols in The Tale of Despereaux and make a list of symbols for border. Here are a few examples:
- Book - symbol of Despereaux's love of books and reading
- Sun - symbol of light
- Spool of Red Thread - symbol of Threadmaster
- Spoon - symbol for Roscuro
- Crown - symbol for King Philip and/or Princess Pea
- Chandelier - symbol of Roscuro's mishap
- Barred Door - symbol of dungeon
- Heart - symbol of love
- Musical Note - symbol of Despereaux's love of music
Students glue letters to construction paper and surround with border of small boxes (use rulers) which will each contain symbols. Symbols may be arranged in repeating patterns.
Students draw symbols in pencil and color with markers, crayons, and metallic pens.
- Students complete letters and borders.
- Students share letters with classmates.
- Letters are posted on bulletin board in hallway and parents are encouraged to stop by and read them.
Supporting All Learners
There are students who struggle with writing because of poor fine motor skills or difficulty generating ideas or both. These are the students you'll want to get to first, preferably before they become frustrated and shut down. Some just need help with the first sentence. I scribe for these students and once I've written a sentence or two say, "Now, you have a go!" Every once in a while there is a student who composes on an AlphaSmart word processor or who dictates his entire letter to me as I type it on a computer.
Other Ideas for Writing:
Perspective-Taking - Taking the perspective of another is an advanced idea for second graders, but a few students understand perspective-taking. They can take the perspective of Miggery Sow or Princess Pea and write a letter to Despereaux from another character's perspective.
Good and Evil in Us All - The character Roscuro represents good and evil, love and hate, qualities in us all. Some students see this in Roscuro and in themselves. They may be able to write about good/evil, light/dark as it pertains to Roscuro's life and to their lives.Pen Pals - My students have pen pals who attend a city school about 25 miles away. We write back and forth all year and in June visit our pen pals and eat lunch with them at their school. Having pen pals can be a wonderful, enriching experience for children.
Although letter-writing might seem old-fashioned it's still a valuable skill. For some students, the only letters they write are the ones they compose in school. Encourage parents to help their children write notes and letters to relatives and friends.
Here are a few questions to consider:
- Clear in my explanations and in my overall expectations?
- Circulating among students who have the most difficulty writing?
- Providing enough support for those who need it?
- Making just a suggestion or two during writing conference? (not looking for perfection)
- Looking for improvement/growth in each individual?
You could create a rubric or checklist for the letter. Here are things I'd think about:
Did the student:
- Compose a well-organized letter that included both advice and encouragement?
- Write so that I could hear his voice?
- Stick with the task and persevere?
- Complete the letter and border in a timely way?
- Ask for help as needed?
- Rely on a partner to help him through the proofreading process?
- Make needed changes after writing conference?
- Copy over letter neatly?
- With regard to mechanics, did the student: use capital letters, write in complete sentences, use end marks, and follow the letter format?