I wasn’t sure distance learning and reading groups were going to work, but I recently tried a reading activity with my students that was a big hit. I sent students home with one of three reading group books before self-quarantine started due to COVID-19. I prepared three separate letters from the point of view of a key character in each book. Next, I stuffed envelopes with a book character letter, activity directions, and a pre-addressed stamped envelope for a return letter. Finally, I dropped the character letters in the mail.
Within two days, students began emailing me to say their letter arrived! Forget the fact that this was a reading activity; students were so excited to get real actual mail addressed to them! It helped motivate them to write careful responses from the point of view of the main character in their reading group book.
Reading Activity Materials
- Copies of character letters (enough for each student reading a book)
- Class set of activity directions (enough for all students in your class)
- 2 class sets of envelopes (one envelope to mail to your students, one envelop for the return letter)
- 2 class sets of stamps (one stamp for outgoing letter, one stamp for pre-addressed letter for the reply)
Character Letter Activity Directions
- Prepare your letter from the point of view of a principal character in your reading group book. Add fun details that reflect character traits and setting from the story. For example, in my letter for the book, Kavik the Wolf Dog by Walt Morey, I added a sprinkle of fake snow to the envelope. The story takes place in Alaska, so I included the fake snow to represent the setting of the story. In my letter for Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl, I added smudged fingerprints. Danny’s dad is a mechanic. The fingerprints reflect the dad’s job, and how his hands get greasy when he works.
- Here are my SAMPLE LETTERS to help create your own version of a letter from a book character.
- Write a page with directions about your expectations for the assignment. I used these LETTER WRITING DIRECTIONS.
- Pre-address and pre-stamp envelopes with the address where you want the return letters to go. I used my home address since we are in quarantine due to COVID-19.
- Stuff each envelope with directions, one character letter, and a pre-addressed/stamped letter and seal closed.
- Address and mail to each student.
Alternate Letter Ideas
- If your students don’t have book group books, mail directions with a pre-addressed envelope and ask students to mail back a reply from the point of view of a book character in any book they are reading.
- Depending on the activities of your students while in quarantine, ask them to mail you a favorite recipe with specific directions (procedural writing) or a letter about an activity at their house (descriptive writing), or a letter explaining why/why not social distancing is important (persuasive writing).
- Include stamped postcards to save on the cost of postage or handle it all through email. Email can be a good option if you are worried about the spread of COVID through regular mail.
To purchase low prep novel units for my three reading group books, click HERE, HERE, and HERE. To see another fun reading activity that thinks about point of view, CLICK HERE to read about a through the keyhole setting activity.
As classrooms across the country adjust to distance learning, teachers are scrambling to adapt their curriculum to an online format. It is not realistic to expect the same content or type of instruction in the distance learning class, but parents can expect innovative teaching ideas as teachers try new ways to activate student knowledge from afar. This reading activity is one way to assess reading comprehension, writing skills, and even keyboarding or handwriting skills. It also has real world application since it involves using proper letter format. Finally, if you are looking for an outside activity during quarantine, this might offer an opportunity to walk to your local mailbox (or at least to the end of the driveway).