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The Mail Race


Return to Better Letters: Lesson Plans for Teaching Letter Writing


Arts & Humanities
  • Language Arts
Educational Technology

Social Studies
  • Geography
  • History
    • U.S. History
    • State History
  • K-2

  • 3-5

  • 6-8

Brief Description

Students write friendly letters, mail them to random schools -- and wait to see who responds -- in this lesson combining language arts and geography.


Students will
  • learn to write a friendly letter.
  • select a state and town to which to mail the letter.
  • record responses on a map as they are received.


friendly, letter, geography, state, community

Materials Needed

  • paper and pencils/pens
  • a U.S. map to display on a bulletin board
  • yarn
  • stamps

Lesson Plan

In this lesson, students write friendly letters and wait to see who gets the first response.

Review the friendly letter format with students. Inform students that they are going to write a friendly letter that tells about themselves, their school, and the community they live in. Encourage students to brainstorm what information they might include in such a letter, write their responses on a chart, and post the chart so students can use as they write their letters.

Invite each student to choose a state (or territory or province) and a town within that state. Have them address their letters to the principal of an elementary school in that town, asking the principal to pass the letter along to a responsible student who would be willing to reply to it. (Students can use a search engine to find schools in the community they select, or you might provide addresses for students). As much as possible, direct students selections so letters are mailed to a wide variety of states.

Students should mention in their letters that the letter is part of a contest. Following is a sample paragraph that all students might include in their letters:

We are having a contest in our class to see whose letters get the quickest response. Could you write back to me soon? In your letter, tell me a little about yourself, your school, and your community. I would really appreciate it. Thank you!

As students receive replies to their letters, post the letters around a U.S. map on a classroom bulletin board. Extend yarn from each letter to the location on the map from which the letter was sent.

Note: This is a "contest only in the loosest sense of the word. It is really unfair to announce a winner based on the quickest reply because it will take some letters longer that others to get to their destinations and back. The excitement really will come as students mark places on the map as responses arrive in the mail.

Activity Options

  • Instead of having students mention the contest in their letters, create a separate page explaining the contest and have students insert that page in their letters.
  • Instead of asking recipients to respond in letter format, provide a form for them to fill out. The form could include general questions about their schools. See a sample questionnaire that your students can adapt for this activity. (Note: This questionnaire is an archived copy for information/model purposes only; the page is no longer being updated.)
  • Students can double their chances for a response by writing two letters and sending them to schools in different states.
  • Students might create a timeline on which they record the dates responses are received.
  • Do you know other teachers from around your state or the U.S.? Do you belong to a teacher listserv? Recruit other teachers to join you in the mail race.


Use or adapt one of the rubrics below to assess students adherence to the correct Format for a Friendly Letter.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

National Standards


    GRADES K - 12
    NT.K-12.5 Technology Research tools

See more language arts lessons from Education World.

Return to the letter-writing lesson plan page.

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Copyright © 2010 Education World

Originally published 09/27/2002
Last updated 06/02/2010