Teacher’s File Drawer #3: The Holiday Letter

We all receive them—Holiday letters. Writing a holiday letter that will be enjoyed by friends and family requires skill, craftsmanship, a strong awareness of audience, and the cultivation of author voice. This writing assignment was my favorite project for December.

So, how to teach “The Holiday Letter”

I begin by passing out my “Writing your Holiday Letter!” handout and inviting students to share their past experiences with holiday letters. Then we go over the handout together. Here’s what it says:

It’s fun receiving holiday letters from family and friends. Sometimes it is the only news you receive from some of them throughout the year.

So how do you write a fun holiday letter for your friends and family to enjoy?

1) Make two lists. One is a list of the people to whom you want to send your letter. The second is a list of events of the past year about which you think your readers would enjoy reading. This is your pre-write.

2) Write the rough draft of your letter.

Start with a greeting.

Follow the greeting with a few paragraphs of the events you have chosen to describe. Try to hit on major milestones that people would be interested in knowing about.

Close your letter wishing your family and friends a wonderful holiday season.

Keep these tips in mind:

  • Keep your letter clear and easy to read. Try to write just one, single page (You don’t want to lose reader’s interest with too many pages to read).
  • Keep your tone casual. Your letter should sound like it was written by you.
  • Keep your letter upbeat and happy. You do not want to depress your readers with tales of woe or recounting events from their own lives that would bring them sorrow.
  • Have fun with your letter. Many people send holiday letters every year, so you want to make your letter stand out. Be creative in design and organization. Make it enjoyable for both your readers and yourself.

3) Proofread your letter and revise as necessary.

4) It’s a good idea to let someone else read your letter before you make your final copies. Especially consider letting people who are mentioned in your letter read it so you can be certain you have your facts right. Ask your reader/readers for any suggestions for improving your letter. Write these down. Edit and revise one more time.

5) Print out or put together your letter. If printing it on the computer, make sure you use a font that has some character, is pleasing to the eye, and is easy enough and large enough to read easily.

Get creative. You can use scrapbooking techniques or your computer, and create holiday stationary using clip art or borders, stickers, or rubber stamps

Scoring Criteria:

  • Pre-write:  5 pts.
  • Rough Draft:  5 pts.
  • Recorded Peer Feedback:  5pts.
  • Ideas and Content: 5 pts.
  • Organization: 5 pts.
  • Voice: 5 pts.
  • Word Choice: 5 pts.
  • Sentence Fluency: 5 pts.
  • Conventions: 5 pts.
  • Final Copy/Decor: 5 pts.
  • Final Copy/Use of Color: 5 pts.
  • Total: 55pts.

This project was so much fun.

It took approximately 4 hours of in class work, and a night of homework to finish it up.

The finished products were each so unique and so fun to read.