Wish You Were Here: Beginning Level Writing Made Simple
For students who are learning English as a second language, practical and real life skills are extremely important.
We teachers strive to bring realia into the classroom, give them experience speaking in real life situations and reading English text written for native speakers. These are valuable experiences for our classes, but we may find that writing, for beginning level students, is more abstract or has little real life applications. The good news is beginning level writing does not have to be disconnected from reality. By walking through the following steps for writing a postcard, your students will have a chance to practice their beginning level writing skills in a practical situation.
How to Teach a Postcard Writing Lesson to Beginner Level Students
Get your students thinking about experiences they may have had getting postcards. Write the following questions on the board and put students into groups of three or four to discuss the answers.
- Did someone ever send you a post card? - Who sent it to you? - Why did they send it? - How did it make you feel?
Show and Tell
Bring in some examples of real postcards for your students to look at before writing their own. Encourage your students to note what type of information the postcards contain. Do they see any similarities among the notes? Do they notice conventions used for addressing the postcards?
Once your students are thinking about postcards and have seen some examples, tell them that they are going to write their own postcard, in English, and that you will walk them through each step of the process. The first step is to think about words that can be used when describing vacations. Make a list on the board that your students can reference later. Encourage them to think about words that might describe the weather, the location, the food they might eat or activities they might choose to do on vacation.
Choose Your Destination
Now your students will choose their imaginary vacation destination. It can be a place they have been, a place they want to visit, or a place that exists only in their imaginations. Give each person a sheet of poster board, card stock or other thick paper. A half sheet of standard sized paper works well. Then, have your students draw a picture on the card of the place they want to visit. This is the front, or the picture portion, of their postcard.
Address the Card
You will need to model the rest of the steps in writing a postcard for your students. The first step is to turn the card over and write the address on the card. You may want to encourage your students to select someone who attends your school as the recipient of their postcard. Then use the school address, and show your students how to write it on the right side of your model. After writing the address, have students start their message with “Dear _____” on the left side of the card.
Write Your Message
You can give your students a simple, seven sentence formula for writing their postcard message. Modeling for your students, write one short sentence in the blank space on each of the following topics: where you are, what it is like, what you are doing, where you are staying, what you already did on your vacation, something interesting about the place or what you have done. For example, your message might read, “We are at the Jersey shore. The skies are always blue. We are spending lots of time on the beach. Our hotel is very close to the water. We went to a craft show yesterday. The people in New Jersey have been very friendly.” Postcards traditionally close their message with the sentiment, “Wish you were here.” Have your students write that phrase and then close with “Sincerely, ______”.
Display Your Cards
If you like, punch a hole in the top of your students’ postcards and thread some string or yard through the hole. You can now hang the postcard from the ceiling in your classroom and students will be able to see each side!
If your students can write six simple sentences, they have what it takes to write something we see in everyday life.
When they do, they will have confidence in the language that they are learning, and you might just get to see some of their creativity come out, too. So make school a little more like vacation and write some postcards this summer!
Where do you think your students would like to go on vacation? Let us know where their postcards take them.
Susan likes to enjoy every day to its fullest whether she is freelance writing, teaching homeschoolers, or developing her special talent of instigation. When she is not imagining sand castles or catching others off balance, she cooks, sings, reads and takes walks in the sunshine. She earned an M.A. from the University of Delaware in Linguistics and an M.A. from Trinity School for Ministry in Youth Ministry. She currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with her wonderful husband and her three cheepy cockatiels.
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