When was the last time you got a hand-written letter from a child? Didn’t it bring a smile to your face? I’ll bet you were very touched. There’s nothing like getting that kid-script envelope in the mail, opening the letter and reading a letter from a child.
Well, that won’t be happening too much around Santa Cruz County in the near future.
Santa Cruz City Schools changed its writing standards this summer. In third grade we are no longer teaching the “friendly letter” but rather teaching the students how to write an opinion essay.
Preposterous, if you ask me.
Letter writing has been the one area in writing in which almost all of my third graders excel. I arrange for cross-town pen pals and the students learn to write letters to their peers. This teaching and learning experience becomes meaningful and hands-on and the students love it.
The look on my students’ faces when the return letters arrive is truly amazing. They cannot wait to read their letters and write back. They request additional paper so they can write more, ask questions of their new found friend and draw pictures.
I cannot remember a time other than pen pal letters that the students ask for MORE paper to complete their assignment. Not even in art class.
We all know that when students love what they are learning they learn more. So…why the change? Santa Cruz City Schools has to keep up with the rigorous California State Ed Standards.
Our students will not learn the five parts of a friendly letter: greeting, date, body, closing, name may become a thing of the past. Not only that, but the community aspect of a pen pal will be lost. Spelling, grammar and paragraph writing will be taught to these students in a non-meaningful opinion essay. Sure, eight year olds have opinions, but the concept of making a new friend across town is way more exciting.
Once again, the personal touch on how we interact with one another is being replaced. Will emails or, worse, text messages replace hand-written thank you notes? I’m afraid that’s where we’re heading with this.
A friendly letter is a segway into a business or formal letter. I cringe when I imagine these letters in fifteen years. No date in the upper right hand corner, no greeting, commas are non-existent. A proper closing? What’s that? Text language will probably have taken over by then, so save your kid letters. You may be able to sell them on eBay or put them in a museum.