When was the last time you wrote a thank you note? Hopefully it hasn’t been too long! The art of the thank you note seems to be dying – and yet, doesn’t it feel great to get a handwritten note?
We want to bring thank you notes back, and it starts with our students! In this blog, we will share a lesson to teach how to write thank you notes.
You can use this lesson on how to write thank you notes as a stand-alone writing lesson, or you can incorporate it in a thematic unit on kindness. To get some appreciation, you can even make it a lesson specifically on how to write thank you letters to teachers.
Brainstorming Thank You Notes
When teaching how to write thank you notes, you also have a great opportunity to talk about the audience and the author’s purpose. When someone sits down to write a thank you note, what are their intentions? How does their audience affect how they write?
You will want to help students answer these questions.
But first, chat about why someone would want to write a thank you note. For example, they may write after receiving a gift or as a way to show appreciation to someone for always listening!
Then, have students brainstorm who they could write a thank you note to. Make sure to clarify that they need a reason to write to this person – even if the reason is just thanking them for being a good friend.
We recommend creating a graphic organizer and having students brainstorm there. On the graphic organizer, you can write down several categories of people that students could write to. This helps students better organize and generate ideas. The categories, for example, might be family members, people who showed kindness recently, someone who gave you a gift, etc.
Then, students need to select one person to write to (at least for the purpose of this assignment). Encourage them to choose a person that they can show a lot of love and appreciation for.
What to Say in a Thank You Note
Now that students have chosen a person, you want to model how to write thank you notes. Specifically, the format of a letter and what to say in a thank you note!
Start by asking students what they think should be included in a thank you note. Jot these ideas down. If you notice anything they may have missed, you can then add additional notes. Here are the elements we recommend having in a thank you note –
- Heading (2/17/2022 or February 17, 2022)
- Greeting (Hi Susan! or Dear Betty,)
- Thank You Sentence (Thank you for…)
- Expand on why you are thankful (It made me feel…)
- Personal Tidbit (Can’t wait to see you. I hope you are happy. Etc.)
- Closing & Signature (Sincerely, Trey)
Then, provide students with an example. You can make this interactive by cutting your example into strips and having students arrange it correctly or by having students highlight the different elements in various colors. Here is an example we wrote –
Drafting a Thank You Note
Now students will take all the information they’ve learned about how to write thank you notes and write their own!
Even though you’ve spent time going through the important parts of a note, it’s likely your students will forget some of them. To help your students write complete notes, we highly recommend giving them a visual support that contains each element. You can have students make a list in their writing notebooks, provide them a checklist to use while they write, or just jot them down on the board. You can also make a graphic organizer with the elements so students can fill in their sentences and draft ideas and immediately see if they are missing anything.
To differentiate for students, you can create some sentence starters or sentence stems for students. You can also have some students work independently, while others sit at a teacher table with you.
Either way, it’s time to pass the baton and let students work on their own thank you notes! Play some soft music in the background, set a timer, and give students ample time to write.
After the rough drafts are done, have students engage in editing. This can look many different ways depending on what skills you’ve already taught students (notice we said skills you’ve already taught). For instance, if you recently went over writing in complete sentences, then have students edit their thank you notes while specifically checking if their sentences are complete.
The more narrow and focused you make your editing, the more success students will have. We highly recommend staying away from simply handing students an editing checklist with no support or assistance.
Publishing the Thank You Notes
This is the fun part of writing thank you notes! Why not throw a publishing party and have some fun. Here are a few ways you can bring some excitement to publishing –
- Have students create their own thank you cards, which they can decorate with colors, images, stickers, and more
- Give students some pre-made thank you cards and let them choose the one they like best
- Create some time for students to show their thank you note to a partner or the class
Then, it’s time to share. Let students take home their thank you notes or give them to the person they wrote them to! Be sure to check in with students to find out what kind of response they got!
Want a done-for-you thank you note lesson?
If you want to teach your students how to write thank you notes without all the fuss of creating it on your own – then check out our differentiated resources for the holidays.
These resources includes brainstorming organizers and ideas to help students determine who to write to. It also includes sentence stems, so you can differentiate the writing process for students. We even created a (funny) thank you note template, so students can publish their final work and gift it to someone special!
Writing thank you notes is a great activity for so many reasons. Not only does it help aid student writing skills, but it’s a great life skill to express your feelings to others. We hope you find some time to slip in this activity!