Writing is a social process, and writing notes, letters, and greeting cards help students to understand this idea. This brief text-type writing study focuses on giving a friend a special message through the use of a greeting card. Examples of greeting cards can be sending a card to a sick classmate, a birthday card to a friend or family member, or a card for a special occasion, such as a Valentine’s Day card. The birthday card and invitation shown in the illustrations of An Alien Birthday are both examples of personal communications.
1. IMMERSION INTO THE TEXT TYPE
Time: approximately 15 minutes (Can be combined with Pre-assessment)
Grouping: whole class
Materials: An Alien Birthday
We have been talking about all the reasons we all should have friends and why we need all kinds of friends.Review with students that they have learned a lot about friends of all kinds and why we should be friends.
I think the invitation was included to show readers that the alien likes the boy and really wants him to come to his birthday party.Reread the text and then return to the page showing the invitation (p. 2) and page showing the greeting card (pp. 6–7). On each page, discuss why these forms of personal communication may have been included.
- Use prompts such as the following to further the conversation when you turn to pages 6–7:
- Who is the greeting card for?
That’s right, the greeting card shows that Juan cares about the alien. He even cared enough to make the card himself!Who made the greeting card? How can you tell?
- Why do you think taking a greeting card to a party is important?
- Do you think the boy made the card himself? Why do you think he did that?
2. PRE-ASSESSMENT (Optional)
Time: approximately 20 minutes (Can be combined with Immersion into the Text Type)
Materials: paper and markers
Do you think taking a birthday card to a birthday party is important? Why? Why not?Remind students that giving greeting cards (such as birthday cards) are a good way to show friends that we care about them. Using the class collection of greeting cards, pull out one or two containing short messages and read them to the students.
- Provide students with markers and a folded piece of paper (simple card format) and ask them to make a birthday greeting card for the alien in our story. Circulate around the classroom and help students say words ‘as slow as a snail’ to help them with their writing and spelling.
Supporting Writers: Give students an opportunity to share their thinking with a partner before beginning to create their card.
Extending Writers: Encourage students to put more words on their cards than they saw on the greeting card in An Alien Birthday.
- If you choose, assess each student’s card using the Assessment Rubric for Personal Communication to identify levels of key skills and understanding. Look for common needs among the students to help plan future instructions and demonstrations to strengthen students’ existing knowledge.
3. MODELLED AND SHARED WRITING
Time: two sessions of approximately 20 minutes each
Grouping: whole class
Materials: chart paper and markers or an interactive whiteboard
- Brainstorm different reasons why we may write greeting cards. Tell students you will be writing a greeting card as a group and ask which reason they would like to write the greeting card for. When choosing the topic, focus on a situation that all students can relate to, for example, writing a greeting card to a classmate who has moved away, writing a thank-you card to a class visitor, writing a Valentine’s card to show you care about a friend, or writing a get-well card to a classmate who is sick.
Setting a Purpose for Writing
- Tell the students that we will all work together to write a greeting card for ________________.
Let’s think of all the things we need to include in our greeting card.Ask students to tell you what they need to include in their greeting card. Write a few jot notes to record the students’ ideas. Ideas may include a special greeting on the front of the card (e.g., ‘Happy Birthday’), designs and illustrations, salutation (e.g., ‘Dear _________’), message (e.g., ‘Hope your birthday is special,’ ‘Hope you feel better,’ ‘We miss you.’), signature (e.g., ‘From ____’).
PLANNING AND RESEARCHING
- Have students meet with a partner or in small groups. Give each group samples of a few appropriate greeting cards (e.g., birthday, get well) and ask them to come up with ideas to include in our class greeting. To keep the students focused, provide samples of the type of greeting card the class has chosen to write.
- Ask students to share with the class their new ideas for what to include on the greeting card (e.g., “We can have a border around the edge of our card.” “We need to use some rhyming words in our card’s message.”) Add students’ new ideas to the chart begun earlier.
Supporting Writers: Provide a supportive structure for some students by circulating and helping them with prompts such as: “What do you see on the front of the card?” “Are there a lot of words on this card?” “Let me read the words to you.”
Extending Writers: Help students who have lots of ideas narrow their focus by using prompts such as: “What do you think is the best idea to include in our card? Why do you think this is the best one to use?”
DRAFTINGWrite the Statements
You want to say, ‘Dear Morgan.’ David can make a capital ‘D.’ Where should David write his ‘D’? What letter can you hear next when I say the word ‘Dear’ as slow as a snail? Can you hear the next letter, too? What is the next letter we need? Sousan can make this letter.Using the chart of ideas made earlier, begin to write a greeting card message together with students on chart paper or an interactive whiteboard. Put the title for the greeting card at the top that will later go on the front face of the card (e.g., ‘Happy Birthday,’ ‘We Miss You’). Share the pen with the students occasionally and weave in prompts for writing concepts. Vary your prompts from student to student to meet the range of writing development demonstrated in your room.
Teaching Tip: Have students record using a different-coloured marker than the one you are using. This allows them to easily see how much writing they were able to help you with and helps to build their confidence as writers.
Supporting Writers: Ask students needing support to demonstrate concepts such as to where to start writing, where the next letter goes, and predicting the beginning letter of a word. Use this opportunity to reinforce letter names for each sound.
Extending Writers: Writers ready for extension may be able to share the pen and write down a word or phrase.
- Build the message, making sure all the necessary parts of a personal communication are included. Use prompts such as:
- Did we remember to write the name of the person we are sending the greeting to and a salutation (e.g., ‘Dear’)
- Did we include a special greeting on the front to tell why we are writing? (e.g., ‘Happy Birthday,’ ‘Get Well,’ ‘Wish You Were Here’)
- Did we write a message that shows that we care about them and they are our friend?
- Did we include our names to show who the greeting card is from?
- Did we remember to use punctuation?
Is there a place where we could use an exclamation mark to show them we really care about them? Remember that Juan used one in his greeting card.Reread the greeting card with the students. Consider where punctuation could be used to enhance or clarify the message.
Extending Writers: Revisions beyond rereading the draft are not expectations for Kindergarten students. You may wish to work in a small group with more advanced writers, encouraging them to add more to the message in the greeting card.
I’m thinking an exclamation mark after ‘Have fun’ would show our friend we really want him to enjoy his party. What do you think? Is there another place we could use an exclamation mark?Using ‘think alouds,’ model how students might make revisions.
Consider some of the following revision ideas:
- writing more in their card greeting (adding an additional line or two, including an adjective)
- changing some words (e.g., Can you think of as word that rhymes with____? )
- reordering their sentences for a more complete thought flow or for more rhyming opportunities
- changing or adding punctuation
Extending Writers: Editing is not an expectation for most Kindergarten students. If you decide a few students need extending into editing, use a small group and work on simple editing conventions.
You stopped and took a breath after the first three words. Do we need a punctuation mark there? What punctuation mark should we use? We made part of that big sentence into two sentences. Now what kind of letter do we need at the beginning—a small letter or a capital letter?Have the students read the draft to you again, checking the use of capital letters and punctuation in the writing.
SHARING AND PUBLISHINGMake a Final Copy
We want our card to be like the card Juan made for Zort. We can’t see the front of his card but we know from other greeting cards that there are usually words of greeting on the front, too.Write a final version on a card format (simply fold a piece of paper into a card). Point out that the special greeting goes on the front of our card. Remind them that the salutation and message go inside the card.
- Ask students to add illustrations and designs to the class greeting card.
Reflect on the Greeting Card
- Take a few minutes to reflect on the greeting card after it has been illustrated. Reread the card a few times to support those students not able to read it independently. Have students form small groups of 3 or 4 and together discuss how the greeting card would make them feel if they were to receive it.
- Circulate among the groups and use prompts such as the following to keep the students focused:
- When you look at the front of the card, how do you feel? Why?
- How do the words make you feel? If you were to receive this card, would you feel like the people who sent it care about you? Why? Why not?
4. GUIDED AND INDEPENDENT WRITING
Time: approximately 15–45 minutes (including time for sharing)
Grouping: whole class, small group, and individuals
Materials: assorted coloured paper, art materials, pencils and/or markers
PLANNING AND RESEARCHING
- Tell students that they will be making their own greeting cards with their own personal messages in them. Each student will choose the type of greeting card they want to make and who it will be for.
- Write the names of two or three types of greeting cards: ‘Happy Birthday,’ ‘Miss You,’ ‘Get Well.’ Below each name, post an example of that type of card (taken from the collection).
I want to make a birthday card for my special friend because his birthday is next week. I might say, ‘I hope your birthday is lots of fun!’ I could draw balloons all around the card because my friend loves them.Ask students to decide which type of card they are going to make and think about what features they will include on the card.
- Inform students that there are a variety of art materials at a centre, where they will be able to decorate their card after they have finished writing.
DRAFTINGWriting Greeting Card Messages
- Ask students to select the paper they want to use for their card.
- Have students write their greeting card messages. You may wish to provide extra paper for students who wish to practise writing their messages or try out different wording.
- Allow time for students to illustrate and decorate their cards after completing their written messages.
Supporting Writers: Form a small guided-writing group for students needing extra support. Encourage them to begin by writing a word or two on the front to indicate the kind of greeting card they are making. This text might also be repeated on the inside.
If students need more support, An Alien Birthday can be used as a model for writing a message on their card. You may suggest to some students that they think about making a birthday card and follow Juan’s plan in the book. Encourage students to be creative in their designs and illustrations.
Extending Writers: Encourage these writers to write a longer message and think about choosing some words that rhyme. Help them to revise their sentences and edit by checking for a capital letter at the beginning of each sentence and for punctuation at the end. Remind them of how the class revised and edited the class card, if you did so.
SHARING AND PUBLISHING
Time: approximately 15 minutes
Grouping: small groups
- Divide the class into small groups and encourage them to share their greeting cards with the group members.
Teaching Tip: The number cards used during Modelled and Shared Writing can be used again to ensure fair division of speaking time.
- Create a display of students’ cards and encourage them to read the cards their friends made.
Teaching Tip: You may wish to display the birthday cards in the drama centre.
5. ASSESSMENT AND SELF-EVALUATION
Time: 10 minutes if done as a class, or a few minutes per child if done in centres. (Self-evaluations can be done during centre time when you can circulate and scribe for individuals.)
Grouping: whole class and individuals
Materials: Self-Assessment BLM and Assessment BLM
- Ask students to reflect on their writing using the Self-Assessment: Personal Communication BLM (e.g., “What did I do well?” “Does my message show I care about my friend?”)
- Asking for oral responses may be the best approach. You may decide to choose a few students to fill in the BLM for each writing study, as you will likely have to read it aloud and scribe the student’s response. You may alternatively decide to ask just one question (e.g., “What did I do well?”).
- Using the Assessment Rubric for Personal Communication, document each student’s growth in writing personal communications, noting the skills and understandings that he or she is demonstrating. If you had students write a Pre-assessment piece, compare it with the student’s final greeting card to assist you in noting areas of growth.