Project work (4): Writing "thank you" letters

Thanks for the soldiers. The kid next door loves them. She got a phone for Christmas and I swopped them with her. She was really upset cos the phone was broken. It wasn't actually but I told her it was cos I really needed the phone so we were both happy.

Example letter shown to learners

What makes a successful task in a language learning classroom?

I'd suggest it's one that (1) produces a lot of interaction and language, including new language; and that (2) your learners like doing it — so much so that someone asks you if they can "do that again".

If you've tried the first three parts of the "Christmas" project proposed (see links below) and they've been successful, there's an obvious fourth part, that has worked well with learners in the past.

In Part 2, we had people writing letters to Santa asking for particular things for Christmas, which — in Part 3 — they didn't get, instead getting something totally random (see Part 1). The follow-up has to be the "thank you" letters! Yes, I know: no one writes "thank you" letters nowadays, do they? But that's no reason why we shouldn't get some fun — and language! — out of writing them.

How you do this is going to depend to a considerable extent on how you've done the first three parts but here are a couple of the alternatives:

If you're printing things and displaying them on a classroom noticeboard, you could do that — and perhaps display, in columns, the letter telling Santa what they wanted from Part 2; the photo and letter accompanying what they actually got (Part 3) below that; and the "thank you" letter below that, thus:

Noticeboard display

I'd make the learners themselves do all the printing and displaying!

If you're using a shared digital space of some kind (Blogger, Edmodo, a G+ Community), you could either (a) have learners write new posts for their thank you letters or (b) simple answer the corresponding "Part 3s" via the comments on the class blog (etc.)

Writing and speaking tasks
Although this and some of the other parts of this project look like writing tasks, in previous years it seems to have been most successful when the learners have really got into discussion of what you would really say (and what you should and shouldn't say!) to, for example, an extremely rich but eccentric old aunt who's given you a mouldy, dog-eared old teddybear when you wanted a iPad Pro?

When they start to see a writing task as a fun speaking task, that's when you've know your task design has been a success!

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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  1. Haha,yes it was a lot of fun though it got a bit confusing at times. I'm sure I can do it again this year with the classes I've got but I'd probably print like you suggest next time. In class, there were people who actually argued about some of the present!

  2. If you find yourself having trouble explaining the concept of "thank you" letters (?!), I guess you could also have your learners imagine the thankyous would go on Facebook or WhatsApp… 😉 !

  3. There are various "fake facebook page generators" out there, this one, for example, though it wasn't the one I used some years ago.

  4. Thanks for feedback, Kim.

    Yeah, various other teachers told me they had people who posted stuff in the wrong places and so on. I really, really like to see learners writing comments on digital spaces like Edmodo but, with this one, I might go along with that — perhaps use Google Docs to write (and share with you) but then print and display on a classroom noticeboard.

    There would of course be a possible fifth part to this…

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