|The book, The Jolly Postman, uses well-known storybook characters, from fairy
tales and nursery rhymes, as recipients of letters. This children’s storybook
can be used as a review of these genres of literature. In addition, it can also
help children begin to explore rhyme and a variety of writing styles. In this
lesson, you will be using The Jolly Postman as an authentic example to discuss
letter writing as a genre. Students explore the letters to the storybook characters
delivered by The Jolly Postman. Then, they learn how to categorize their own
examples of mail.
| From Theory to Practice
|In "Reading to Students as Part of Genre Study," Dick Koblitz
explains, “One of the reasons I read aloud daily to the six- to nine-year-old students in my multiage primary classroom is to introduce a genre. This has deepened
the more intensive genre study that my students and I do in our literature group
discussions” (1). In Koblitz’s classroom, “Constructing meaning from a text or about a particular genre of literature
during, and after the read-aloud
session” (1). Before beginning to read, Koblitz shares basic information
about the genre. During the reading, Koblitz pauses to explore vocabulary and
identify conventions. After
next. Koblitz concludes that “using interactive read-alouds can be powerful
in helping students to discover the literary elements of a particular genre of
literature. They always want to read more books by the same authors or in the
same genre. And they will often begin to write their own stories in the genre,
of the same rules and structures of the more experienced authors” (2). This
lesson plan follows a similar process, using The Jolly Postman as a read-aloud
text that leads to genre exploration and serves as a model for students’ own
Koblitz, Dick. "Reading to Students as Part of Genre Study," School
Talk 7.2 (April 2002): 1-2.
- read and discuss The Jolly Postman
characters from well-known stories
- examine parts of a letter
- research the different genres of mail
- categorize letters from The Jolly
Postman by looking
at their attributes
- demonstrate an understanding of parts of letters and letter genres by writing
Instruction and Activities
- Prepare chart paper for a class Letter
- Make copies of the Type
of Letter Worksheet
or prepare an overhead or chart paper to record students' observations.
- Gather sample letters to share with students during the lesson.
- Test the Letter Generator on
your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools and ensure that you have
the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in
from the technical support page.
- Introduce the genre by discussing letters and letter writing, using
the following questions as a guide:
- Do you like to get mail?
- What are some reasons that people write letters?
- What type of letter would you write if someone gave you a gift?
- What type would you write if you broke a friend's toy?
- What type would you write if you were having a party?
- Talk with the students about the different types of letters that a letter
carrier has to deliver. For example, there are formal letters, chatty notes,
- Post a piece of chart paper and list these types of letters.
- Ask the children about other kinds of letters
sent through the mail.
As students brainstorm, add the kinds of letters to the chart paper.
- Critically read The Jolly Postman. Begin by summarizing the story:
the book tells about the mail that a letter carrier delivers to fairy tale characters.
- Show the design of the book, focusing on the fact that some pages
tell parts of
rhyme while some pages are actually the letters that the Postman in the
book delivers. Discuss the format of the book
and the different characters introduced.
- Read the book, being sure to read and display each
As you read each letter, you might pass the piece to students to look at more
closely as you continue reading.
- Once you've finished the book, ask students to help you put the letters
back in the right envelopes. As you go through the book another time, encourage
students to use clues on the letters and envelopes to match the letters with
their envelopes in the book.
- Show an example of a letter and an envelope that has already been prepared.
You can use an example from the book or a letter that you have on hand.
- As a class, look at different types of mail—friendly letters, business
letters, persuasive letters, greeting cards, and so forth. Discuss the similarities
and differences of each type. Encourage students to use their own letters
to find examples of the various parts of letters as they are discussed.
- Together, create a chart listing the characteristics of each type of mail.
See the attachment as
- Use the Type
of Letter Worksheet, categorize the letters delivered by The Jolly
Postman, based upon the class’s letter description chart.
- As homework, have the students bring in examples of mail they receive at
- Review the chart of characteristics created in the previous session.
Answer any questions students have.
- Divide students into small groups, and ensure that each group has at least
four to five letters.
- Based upon the class’s letter description chart, have students categorize
the examples of mail they brought from home.
- Circulate among students as they work, answering any questions and watching
for evidence that students are using genre characteristics to sort the letters.
- Once students have sorted all their letters, bring the class together again
and ask them to share what they found as they worked with their letters.
Ask students to share the reasons that they categorized the letters as they
- Ask students to share any letters that didn't match the characteristics
on the chart. Adjust the chart as necessary—either adding a category
of letters or refining the characteristics.
- Share The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg (Little
Brown & Co,
2001) or another picture book
that focuses on letters with your class. As a
chapter-book read-aloud, share Beverly Cleary's Dear Mr. Henshaw.
- As an alternative to letter writing, use the interactive Postcard Creator to create original postcards. After printing their text, students can illustrate the front of the cards using markers or other art supplies.
- Use the ReadWriteThink lesson plan Who’s
Got Mail? Using Literature to Promote Authentic Letter Writing to structure
additional letter writing activities in your classroom.
- Arthur’s 7 Ingredients for Cooking Up a Great Letter, from PBSKids
- Read tips on letter writing from Arthur on this page, which can serve as
a student resource for independent letter writing.
- Interview with Allan Ahlberg
- This Penguin Putnam Web page includes a short interview with The Jolly
author, Allan Ahlberg.
|Demonstrate the Letter
Generator for students. Ask students to choose characters from The Jolly
Postman and share one of the scenarios below:
As a group brainstorm the things that the characters might write to one another
in response to the particular scenario, listing the options on a sheet of chart
paper. Once you've created a list that provides several possibilities for students
to choose among, ask
write their own letters using
Generator based on the scenario. At a minimum, ask students to write at
least two different kinds of letters. Assess the letters by comparing the work
students have created to the characteristics chart. If letters depart from
the chart, discuss the comparison with the individual student and provide direct
instruction to help the student understand the differences between the types
- One of the characters from the book has decided that it would be nice to
create a community garden. Write letters that the characters might share about
- One of the characters from the book wants to start a community recycling
center. Write letters that the characters might send or receive in this scenario.
- One of the characters from the book would like to start a town newspaper.
Write letters that the characters might send or receive in this scenario.
1 - Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
2 - Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
3 - Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
4 - Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
5 - Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
6 - Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
9 - Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
11 - Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
12 - Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).