Snow day task: Write a letter

My all-time favorite snow day assignment to my children is to write a letter to an older family member. I typically recommend ideas to include. However, the more they do this, the better they seem to get at coming up with things to say.  It’s so important to me that they not only learn how to write a personal letter, but also connect with family members they don’t see often.

I'll be truthful. There's usually a bit of groaning about this. But I think that's because they simply don't want to be told what to do. Both girls typically tackle the letter early (to "get it out of the way"). I don't quibble with them about when they do it, the paper they use or any of the small things. I don't edit, either. I just look at it to make sure it's written neatly and represents the family well.

In Spanish 2, I teach a unit on running errands (which includes vocabulary words like “mail” (el correo), “letter” (la carta), and “mailbox” (el buzón). I always conduct an informal survey asking how many students have actually handwritten a letter. The responses are typical. In my honors classes, about 70% of the students say they’ve written a letter. In my non-honors classes, about three students raise their hands. I then go on a mini-rant about the benefits of writing a letter every now and then:
  • You’ll look smart and more mature.
  • You’ll improve your writing skills.

And the most compelling to the high schoolers, (at least I think) …
  • You’ll become that favorite niece, nephew or grandkid to an older person who feels left behind by fast-moving technology. They’ll write you back (you’ll get some mail), and they might even sneak a few bucks in their reply letter.

At home, this task doubles as a lesson on how to properly address an envelope. That may sound ridiculous to my generation and older. But it’s not. Trust me.

I’ve seen first hand that many high school students are clueless about what to do with an envelope. Each year, as a member of a faculty committee, I review applications for the National Honor Society. In the application, students must include a self-addressed, stamped envelope that will be used to return their decision letter. Believe me when I tell you … some of the envelopes look crazy, to say the least: stamps in wrong places, no return addresses, commas after the spelled-out state name …

This week I had an opportunity to explain to my little one the reason for postage stamps (another fact I’d assumed kids just simply absorbed): nothing is free; mailing a letter costs money.

Today is snow day #4. We’ve written and mailed one letter each so far this break.  Time to pick another relative.


  1. Excellent way to keep a lost art alive! Waiting for my letter.:)

    1. There's one headed your way -- with a shout out to you! ;-)

  2. I love that you are keeping this tradition alive. When my mom passed, I found stacks of cards and letters from her grandkids. I also sent letters and note cards even though I was only a mile away. She so enjoyed getting letters from her family. To her generation, that was her text.

    1. Cheryl, that is so encouraging. Thank you. It's a good reminder that I, too, need to write more letters.


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