Teaching Students About Informal Letters

What is an informal letter?

An informal letter is the type of letter you would write to someone you know, for example, a friend or family member.

They’re written in a more friendly and familiar style than a formal letter that follows strict layout and style rules.

Informal letters are more flexible when following these rules and can take many forms.

Why write a letter to your friend?

Nowadays, receiving or writing a letter to your friend is rare. This is due to instant messaging, emails, and other technologies that make communication more immediate.

But, the excitement of receiving a letter remains. And the act of writing a letter has its benefits too.

Setting time aside to write a letter to your friend shows them you have been thinking of them and makes them feel special. Writing is also an excellent chance to express yourself and order your thoughts.

What kinds of letters might you write to a friend?

Informal letters are written for a whole range of reasons. You might write a letter to your friend to:

  • Share news
  • Say thank you
  • Wish them a happy birthday
  • Invite them to an event
  • Congratulate them on something
  • Apologize
  • Tell them about a holiday

Features of an informal letter

Informal letters have different features in comparison to formal letters. They aren’t as rigid in the way they are structured or written. And this means when you write a letter to your friend, you can have some fun by breaking the usual letter-writing rules.

How you structure your letter will depend on your writing type. But there are a few standard features that are noticed when writing informally. These are:

  • A friendly opening and close
  • A date
  • Informal and chatty language
  • Written in first person
  • Paragraphs
  • Addresses of the sender and recipient (depending on the type of letter)

Teaching letter writing to children

Children will be taught how to write various letter types in school. These might be informal letters, postcards, or formal letters of complaint or persuasion.

Learning to write letters will start with children exploring the features of a letter. To do this, they will examine an exemplar and talk about what they notice. Next, they will be encouraged to think about the questions – How is it laid out? How is it written? What words have been chosen and why?

Once they are familiar with how a letter is formed, they will move on to writing their own. The key to engaging children in letter writing is to give them purpose. Once they have a reason to write a letter, they can then learn how to construct paragraphs and think about the style of language they will use in their writing.

Fun ideas for letter-writing activities with kids

Engaging children in the topic of letter writing is easy because there are so many exciting cross-curricular learning opportunities.

A term’s topic could start with a mysterious letter from a book character. This will excite children and encourage them to write a letter back in response.

Or, you could tie in some letter writing with a visit to the local post office. If you’re fortunate, maybe you could persuade the local postperson to visit your class and discuss how the postal service works. Doing this will give learning a context, which will help children remember things better in the future.

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