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Starring:
Julie Woletz


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When high-school business teacher Julie Woletz read an advertisement for letters from Santa for children, she immediately thought a similar activity might be used as a fundraiser for the Future Business Leaders of America club she supervised at her school. Later, the concept became a classroom project that brought rewards far greater than money!

During the holiday season, Woletz's students at Cambridge (Wisconsin) High School meet with district first graders and help the children type letters to Santa. The older students then check the letters for spelling and grammatical errors, and save them. Later, the high schoolers retrieve the letters and -- as Santa -- write responses to them. Because Cambridge is a small town, the older students often are able to include personal notes that make the youngsters feel that Santa really knows them well.

"My students most enjoy reading the students' letters; it's comical to hear them comment about what the younger kids ask for or what they tell Santa about themselves and their families," reported Woletz. "I love it when the high-school students know the elementary kids and can say something like, 'I noticed that your family just moved to town' or 'I like the new car your mom is driving.' I think that makes the letters seem more authentic."

What has surprised Woletz most about this simple project is the reaction of a few of her students who typically don't get too excited or too "into" class activities. Suddenly, some of those students want to respond to as many first-grade letters as possible. The humor in the first-graders' letters might be the key to that interest. One child asked Santa to bring her a new baby sister because she didn't care for her new baby brother!

"That was a hard one to reply to!" laughed Woletz. She finds that sending her students to the elementary school to help out with the writing of the Santa letters gives them the opportunity to meet the first graders and a better chance to respond in a personal way.

"I ask the high-school students to make no promises about what will be brought," Woletz explained. "I wouldn't want a child to be mad at Santa forever because he didn't deliver the puppy he promised."

Woletz is careful to start the project early, so it can be wrapped up before the holiday break. Discussing the project with cooperating teachers well in advance also allows them to fit it into their planning schedule, she said, noting that she already has contacted the elementary teachers in her district to get the ball rolling for this year.

Of course, this is a special year for Woletz, who will receive a special gift and gain a new perspective on the project. Her son, a first grader, will be taking part!

Coming Soon...

If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected]

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2005 Education World

11/18/2005