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Postie Letters: enhancing Reading and Writing in the Daily Five Classroom

August 16, 2012
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You often find out about a great book to read through a friend.  In our Grade Two class, we have a daily routine called ‘Postie’.  Letters are written and read recommending a good-fit book to a classmate. The Student of the Day becomes the Postie and gets to deliver the letters to others.

‘Postie’ started as my letter to a reader. I would write to a student who I thought needed a bit of help choosing a ‘good fit’ book for reading.  Choosing books that I enjoyed myself, I wrote to tell the reader what it was about and why I thought they should read it.

Things changed when the students themselves started to write the letters. I had not asked them to do this, and it has never become a required task.In the photo, Chanel is carefully reading my letter to her, and following the structure as well as choosing the vocabulary for the letter.  It’s something we do because we love writing, we love reading, and we want others to also.

To write a successful Postie letter, the writer has to explain why this book will suit the reader. To this end, children have been referring to the CAFE menu used in our Daily Five literacy system. Now we talk more about the strategies on the CAFE board, thinking about them and matching them to reader friends.

There are regular writers’ workshops with ‘Postie’ letter writers, where three or four students work with me to improve their letters.  Together we have created a ‘Bump It Up’ chart. This chart displays the work of three writers, and annotates the desired features shown in their Postie letters.

Monique shows our ‘Bump It Up’ chart to her mum.

The three samples chosen are from a range of writers, demonstrating ‘doing well’, ‘getting there’ and ‘starting off’. This enables students to aim at ‘bumping up’ their writing to the next level by referring to the visible examples.

The magic?  It’s all about connecting the reading and writing. It’s about purpose and audience in writing, and enabling choice. It’s about becoming more knowledgeable about the reading process and using this knowledge to help a reader. And it’s a pretty nifty way to create a book review.

“You are not just bumping up the person who reads the book.  You are bumping up your own writing.” Zoe

“The letter improves if you add more detail to your sentences.” Isabella

“When you do Postie, you are actually bumping up both your reading and their reading because you have to know what a good fit book is for them.” Madison

“You have to make your letter interesting.” Jema

Postie from brette lockyer on Vimeo.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 17, 2012 10:50 pm

    Brette,
    I just love this idea! Engagement starts with choice yet sometimes the ambiguity of choice can be too big for a child. I love the idea of recommending texts. Remember our American friend Steven Layne from ALEA conference? In his book, ‘Igniting a Passion for Reading’, he gives lots of strategies just like yours in developing a gregarious, insatiable and voracious appetite for reading.

    http://www.stevelayne.com/go.jsp?t=author&g=professional

    Another brilliant post Brette!

    • brette lockyer permalink*
      August 18, 2012 3:51 am

      Thanks for the comment Jasmine, and especially reminding me about Steven Layne.
      In the Grade Two literacy classroom I have found it difficult to talk about reading strategies in ways useful to the children. It was an unexpected benefit that the ‘Postie’ letters helped with this. I feel like a vulture circling to swoop on any rich learning moment that happens outside my planning and programming. This one one of those.
      Cheers
      Brette

  2. August 17, 2012 11:39 pm

    Excellent! I have been knocking around the idea of kid-recommended books, but I wasn’t sure if they would do it on the blog or on paper. I love the idea of “posties”!

    • brette lockyer permalink*
      August 18, 2012 3:55 am

      Thanks for the comment, Louise. The ‘Postie’ letters which I write to the children are also a great way to introduce a new book to the class library.
      I am determined to keep the ‘Postie’ letter writing activity as a choice task, so that the social learning connections remain strong.

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