The Lost Art of Letter

I think most students today have very little idea about writing letters. They live in an age of instant messaging and probably find writing emails an archaic idea.

But writing letters? By hand? With a pen and paper?? That just seems so old…

I think this lesson is a great way to introduce the lost art of letter writing. It can show an old custom that people used to do because often there was no other way to communicate or express our feelings to each other.

I hope this is engaging for your students and useful for you in the classroom.

And as always, let me know in the comments below!

 


 

Introduction

 

Have you ever written a letter? If so, what was the letter about? Who was it for?

Do people still write letters in your country? If so, why?

 

Reading

 

When was the last time you wrote a letter? People used to write them years ago because they had no choice. There was no internet and if you wanted to express your thoughts to someone far away, there were only two ways to do it—a phone call or writing a letter.

The writing of letters was an art form. So much so that letters from artists, writers and famous politicians have been published into books.

Young children up until the dawn of email wrote letters to their grandparents or uncles and aunts, expressing gratitude for birthday gifts received or just to say something simple.

People looked forward to receiving letters. They were treasured and revered, kept under lock and key in many circumstances in special boxes or even just an old shoe box, but never thrown away.

The reader respected the letters they received, knowing that the writer had taken time to write them and put much thought into the words written on each page.

What happened to the art of letter writing?

The advent of certain technology caused people to stop writing letters so often. People made use of their mobile phones on a regular basis. We could now make phone calls anywhere and it just became so much more convenient to make a call instead of putting pen to paper.

Then email arrived, and that became the death of letter writing.

Why go through all the effort of writing a letter, putting it into an envelope, going to the post office to buy a stamp and putting the letter into a letterbox when you could just type out a few sentences and press send?

With faster forms of communication people just wanted the ease and speed of email.

By the time instant messaging became popular, letter writing became a distant memory of the past. In fact, people then talked about the death of email as people found it easier to communicate via messaging platforms.

But many people believe that the death of letter writing was first started when people no longer took an effort in their handwriting.

At one time, beautiful handwriting was respected and made letters all the more of a joy to read. Once that stopped the letters became merely functional. Just a means of passing on a simple message.

Suffice to say, that very few people write letters today. There are few grandparents that receive letters in the post from their grandchildren thanking them for a Christmas gift. Lovers these days express their feelings via text messages and emojis.

The art of letter writing seems lost forever.

 

Essential Vocabulary

art form

published

dawn

gratitude

treasured

revered

kept under lock and key

circumstances

advent

instant messaging

a distant memory

platforms

handwriting

joy

functional

suffice to say

emoji

 

Exercise

 

Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:

Notebook—a small book with pages of blank paper that students use to make notes when studying.

“I left my notebook at home so I was unable to make any notes in my English class.”

 

Questions

 

Have you ever written a letter? Tell the class about it.

Is the art of letter writing lost forever? Why/why not?

Do you think the art of letter writing should be revived? Why/why not?

Who would you write a letter to today? Why would you write a letter to this person? What would you say in your letter?

Do you agree with the article about handwriting being partly responsible for the death of letter writing? Why/why not? Has the art of good handwriting gone out of fashion? Why?

Do you think children should be encouraged to write letters to family members such as their grandparents? What purpose could this serve?

What kind of subjects could be expressed better in a letter than an email or an instant message?

Have you ever received a love letter? How did it make you feel? Can you talk about it in class?

Do you have any old letters kept in a shoe box or somewhere safe? Why do you keep them? What is their value?

 

Group Exercise

 

Get into small groups and between you all write a letter to your teacher.

Express your gratitude for teaching such inspiring English lessons.

Or maybe express your anger at him not teaching you properly.

Try to use as much English as you can.

Get one member of your group to read out the letter in front of the class.

 

Teacher’s Notes

 

No doubt I imagine your students will be of the smartphone generation. So the idea of letter writing may be as alien to them as ancient hieroglyphics.

If you have ever written letters yourself when you were younger then you could begin the lesson by talking about that experience – who did you write to? Why did you write the letters?

As a child I wrote letters to Father Christmas – if you have a similar experience you could talk about that too. You could also broach the idea of love letters depending on the culture and age of your students.

In the group letter writing exercise at the end you have to prepare to put yourself on the line!

 


 

Did you use this lesson plan in your own class? Was it useful?

Let me know in the comments below!

 

2 thoughts on “The Lost Art of Letter”

  1. This is shockingly true and it is shameful. Even more shocking is the fact that children no longer learn cursive in most schools. They never get beyond block printing. My grandchildren are studying cursive on their own. Not only ‘letter’ writing but writing by hand and writing in cursive is important for motor skills and for getting our awareness back in the body.

    1. Yes, what happened? My parents have great handwriting because it was taught as a skill in school. I learned cursive but I was already in that generation where it was no longer regarded as a skill any longer. There is a problem in some Asian countries where younger people can no longer write the characters of their language as they never have the need to write them. Everything done by using a smartphone…

      As always, thanks for your comment, Leona!

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