2. Writing letters

In this part, we suggest that you motivate your pupils to write letters in the additional language. This could mean setting up long-distance relationships with speakers of the additional language, or they could write to friends who are closer.

You could introduce a pen-pal scheme (see Resource 1: Pen-pals) with another class. This can be a class in your country or in another country.

If pupils become confident writers and readers of letters while they are at primary school, they are more likely to be successful writers of letters later in life. As they write personal letters to friends, you can also introduce other styles of letter writing. This will equip them for later needs, such as applying for bursaries or jobs, letters to newspapers, letters of congratulation or condolence.

Case Study 2: Writing to console or complain

The pupils in Mrs Linda Ezenwa’s Primary 5 class were upset and couldn’t concentrate on their schoolwork. One of their classmates, Oluchi, had been killed in a bus crash. They missed their friend very much. They were also angry because they had heard that the bus had faulty brakes.

Mrs Ezenwa encouraged the pupils to talk about how they were feeling. She realised that they wanted to do something, so she asked if they would like to write to Oluchi’s family. She suggested that they write two letters: one in Igbo for her parents and grandparents and one in English for her brother and sister who had grown up in Onitsha. The pupils said that they wanted to tell Oluchi’s family members that they were thinking about them and also tell them all the good things about Oluchi.

Mrs Ezenwa helped them with an outline for their writing. Each pupil wrote their own letter in Igbo. In the next lesson, Mrs Ezenwa helped them to write one letter from the whole class in English and then each pupil signed it.

With Mrs Ezenwa’s help, they also wrote a letter in English to the bus company, requesting that all the buses be carefully checked to make sure they were roadworthy.

The class received replies to both the letters they had written. Mrs Ezenwa pinned these letters to the class notice board.

Mrs Ezenwa realised how this had motivated her pupils and given them important social skills. It had also helped them see the purpose of learning the additional language.

Activity 2: A letter to a friend or pen-pal

Read Resource 1 first, and set up your partner school.

  • Give each pupil in your class the name of a pen-pal with whom they can establish a relationship. (If this is not possible, try to get each pupil to identify a pupil in another class or a relative or friend away from home they would like to correspond with.) If you already have a partner school, or you set one up (see Resource 1 for how to do this), keep in close contact with your partner teacher, to discuss potential problems and find solutions together.
  • Discuss with your class the kinds of things they might like to say in their first letter. Over time, they could exchange information about their lives, their families, their friends, their interests, their dreams.
  • Agree a format for the letter (see Resource 2: Writing letters), and let them start writing. Go round helping them with words and phrases that they need.
  • Let them revise and edit their letters in pairs. (See Resource 3: Assessing pen-pal letters.) Take the letters in yourself, and give supportive and constructive feedback.
  • Let pupils write out a final version of their letter, address the envelope and post it.
  • With younger pupils, this could be a whole-class activity and you write what they want to say. They could write to another class in the school.

How can you support the development of these correspondence relationships?

How can you help where needed, while giving space for relationships to develop?

1. Focus on everyday language

3. Creating books