Monday, July 28, 2008

A Showing of Hands: Pre-Literacy Notes

When a student leaves my mom's fifth grade classroom, they take with them a lot of experience in writing thank you notes.

Though I'd like to say her fine influence has made me an exemplary written correspondent, that would be a disturbingly egregious lie.

Thank you notes have been particularly problematic for me. I spent many years trying to write a perfect note to express appreciation for truly generous acts.

A good friend (who also happens to be a fine writer) counseled me that a perfect thank you note is any appreciative one written in a timely manner.

Since that conversation, I've been a lot better about offering thanks.

Jim and I wanted a way for Ranger to engage in pro-correspondence environment even while pre-literate. Friends and family have been wonderful about sending him mail- especially post cards, so he knows firsthand the pleasure of receiving mail.

For Father's Day, he let us trace his hand onto a homemade card for my dad. A few weeks later Jim was sending a birthday card to our favorite primatologist and Ranger kept circling him- asking insistently for paper and crayons. Jim gave him coloring sheets and crayons, but he kept asking for more. Finally he brought a coloring sheet to me, handed me a crayon, and placed his hand at the center of the paper to be traced.

"Jim, I think he wants to sign the card." So Jim traced Ranger's hand inside the card. Ranger was proud and satisfied. He handed the crayons and paper back to me and went in the other room to play.

With Ranger's handprint contribution, he's an active part of our all family thank you notes and written greetings. And honestly, it gives me even more motivation to write. This morning he and I caught up on our correspondence with 6 thank you notes.

Even if this doesn't give him a lifelong interest in thank you notes, maybe he'll simply become a fan of the Peter Lorre horror classic Beast With Five Fingers.

I also try to keep a pack of blank cards in the car for quick access and unexpected delays. These great instructions (and thougtful post on thank you writing) at Soule Mama show how to make a lovely and practical portable correspondence kit.


Anonymous said...

We have a stash of plain white notecards and envelopes (that you can get at Walmart or a craft store) and when its time to send a thank you note, our (pre-literate) kiddo colors the outside and I write the note on the inside.

Mimi-n-Moe's Mom said...

thanks for the reminder! I need to send YOU a thank you! Have a great day friend, and THANKS for everything!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this wonderful reminder for all about the importance of writing and writing personal notes to others. We've lost that skill with the changes in technology.
As a first grade teacher, one of the things I recommend to parents is to have their children see them write and enjoy writing. Otherwise, how do you expect me to teach them it's important?
Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I usually have the kids draw their scribbles on the card to personalize it. But I love the handprint idea too - I wonder if they'll let me do it.