When was the last time you received a letter in the mail? Last week!!! No, no… I’m not talking about the bills you receive every month. I mean the real handwritten letter personally addressed to you.
The older generation may time to time feel the magic and the personal touch of letters; sadly, handwritten letters have become less popular to children of web and instant communication. Seeing that my students also do get thrilled to receive letters in a sealed envelope, I have been tempted to use this “magical touch” in different ways.
On the very first day of the course, I write personal letters to my students to introduce a little bit of myself, course objectives, and my expectations of them. As it can take a lot of time to write by hand, I prefer typing it. By doing so, I can duplicate the content by only changing the greeting followed by my students’ first names. Finally, I also add a personal touch by writing their names on the envelopes with a calligraphy pen.
I leave the letters on their desks according to the way I would like the students to sit, which also can help them find their places once they enter the class. Reading the letter also keeps the student busy while waiting for the rest to settle down before the lesson starts. Once they all have read their letters, I ask them to write back to me by writing about who they are as learners, their expectations of me and of the course,which they are to hand in the other day.
After this, I move on with some ice-breakers to get to know about my students and to facilitate a smooth start to the course.
On the very last day of the course, I use letters to have students reflect on the course and their overall learning. I tell my students to write a letter to themselves starting with “Dear Me”. In the letter they are to write about what they have learned; their learning goals for the coming course. Having them write their addresses, I collect the sealed envelopes and tell them that I won’t read the letters but post them towards the end of the next course.
This is a great activity in that it can provide the students to see how far they have progressed as well as to evaluate their goals stated. (The same could also be done on the first day and be sent towards the end of the course). The greatest part of using letters this way is probably the positive remarks received by the students even if the course has finished. Students may just pop in to your room and express their gratitude. If you don’t have the chance to see them again, you can be sure that you will get one or two letters from your students thanking you for the pleasure you have provided them with.
I learned this technique, in year 2002, in the Trainer Training Course delivered by my lovely trainer Deniz Kurtoğlu Eken. I, myself, as a learner found this very useful, and have used it in my classes and INSETs since then.
Instead of using the traditional method of writing letters, you can also have students write a letter via futureme.org .
So… If you want to make your students’ day, have them experience the secret pleasure…the private moment of letters.
Here is the link to the sample letter I wrote to the participants in one of the INSETs I gave.
Also see: Writing Letters To Students