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Features of a Letter


What are the features of a letter?

There are lots of different things to remember when writing a letter. A formal letter has a standard layout and conventions that should be followed. Here are the features of a letter:

 

1. Layout - including address and date

The address of the sender should be written in the top-right corner of the page. This is so the receiver of the letter knows the address to reply to.

The date that you write the letter should be written beneath the address of the sender.

The recepient's address should be below both the senders address and the date but on the left hand side of the page.

 

2. Who are you writing to?

The way you write this part of the letter depends on whether you know the person you are writing to. If the sender knows the person they are writing the letter to, they should write their name e.g. Dear Mr. C. Brown.

If the sender does not know the person/people they should write Dear Sir/Madam.

A comma should be used after this introduction e.g.

  • Dear Mr C. Brown,
  • Dear Sir/Madam,

 

3. Beginning the letter

The opening sentence of a letter needs to get to the point and state why the letter is being written. Here are some examples of how you might start a formal letter:

  • I am writing to complain about...
  • I am writing to apply for the position of...
  • I am writing to say thank you for...

 

4. Language

It is important that the sender avoids using too much casual or chatty language. Formal language should be used.

The aim is to sound business like. However, it should not feel cold but should be warm and friendly to read.

 

5. Paragraphs

Each point made needs to have its own paragraph.

Using paragraphs as a structure helps the recepient understand the points being made in the letter.

 

6. Closing statement

At the end of the letter, the sender should restate the main point of the letter.

 

7. Closing the letter

If the sender knows the person, they should use 'Yours sincerely'.

If the sender does not know the person, they should use 'Yours faithfully'.

Features of a letter - an example

Below is an example of a formal letter which includes the key features of a letter described above. This letter is taken from our scheme Shackleton's Journey Letter Writing.

Features of a letter example

How can children be taught features of a letter?

In order for children to be able to write their own formal letter, they will need to be taught about the features of a letter first. Here are some possible activities that will help children learn and understand the features of a letter:

 

1. Shared Reading

The teacher would prepare a WAGOLL (What A Good One Looks Like) of a letter which demonstrates all the features of a letter. The teacher would then read this with the children and its features would be identified. The purpose of each feature would be discussed so that children understand the importance of including each feature in their own letter. A success criteria list would be drawn up for children to refer to throughout the unit and this would form a checklist of features of a letter.

2. Comparing letters

It is also a useful activity for children to be given several different examples and see if they can spot the key features in each of them. They could be asked to evaluate the letter in terms of how many features of a letter it contains.

3. Find the features!

Once children have been shown the key features of a letter, they could be given a different example of a letter and be asked to highlight and label the features of a letter they can find. To make this easier for some children, the key features of a letter could be printed out on cards for them to cut and stick. Higher ability children might be asked to explain the purpose of each feature when labelling as an additional challenge.

4. Using a pro-forma

To help children use the key features of a letter, when drafting their own letter they could use a pro-forma. This is essentialy a template, requiring children to fill in what will be included in each part. This is a handy way to ensure children don't forget any of the features of a letter they need to remember.

5. Editing

When children have had a go at writing a formal letter, they could be given a list of the features of a letter and be asked to go back through and mark off the features of a letter they remembered to include. they could then edit their writing as they would clearly be able to see which features of a letter they had forgotten about. It is also handy to do peer feedback - children could read each other's letters and then feed back to their partner which features of a letter they found and which were missing.

How can PlanBee help teach features of a letter?

Here at PlanBee we have several resources to help you teach the features of a letter to your class. Find out more by clicking on the links below.

African Tails - Letter Features

This 'Meerkat Mail'-themed letter writing lesson for Year 2 starts by challenging your class to compare the features of postcards and letters. They will then look in more detail at letter writing before either writing a persuasive letter to Sunny or ordering a pre-written letter.

This downloadable lesson contains a lesson plan, slideshow presentation and printable teaching resources, all in a handy ready-to-teach file.

The Great Kaypok Tree - Structuring and Drafting a Letter

Children will explore how to structure a persuasive letter, and what each section should include. In their independent activities, children will draft their letters.

Use this Writing a Persuasive Letter KS2 lesson to encourage your class to apply their knowledge and understanding of persuasion!

 

Shackleton's Journey - Letter Writing 

In this lesson, children will discuss the purpose, structure and content of effective paragraphs to give them all the skills they need to create a compelling plan for their letter of application. Shackleton will be left in no doubt that these applicants are the men for the job!

The slideshow will walk your children through the process of constructing clear, well-structured paragraphs for their letter.


Features of a letter KS1

At key Stage 1, children might write simple letters as part of their English work but are unlikely to be asked to use the full range of features of a letter described above.

The book 'The Jolly Postman' by Janet and Allan Ahlberg is a great way to introduce letter writing to your KS1 class.

Features of a letter KS2

As children progress through KS2 they will be given several opportunities to write formal letters. At the beginning of KS2, children will need lots of support to write a letter with key features so will need lots of opportunity to read and analyse high quality models. Templates will be used to support their planning and writing of letters.

As children progress, their understanding of the key features of letters will improve and by the time they leave primary school, should be able to write a formal letter with key features independently.

English Pack: Shackleton's Journey Letter Writing


FREE: Features of a Formal Letter Poster


Lesson Pack: The Great Kaypok Tree: Persuasive Writing - Structuring and Drafting a Letter


Lesson Pack: African Tails - Letter Features

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