The Curriculum of the Steiner School - Class 5

Notes and Lesson Plans

Friendly Letters
updated October 6, 2022

Recorded here is my own personal collection of articles, resources, favorite links, teaching ideas, and lesson plans. It encompasses many years, from the very beginning of my experience studying and learning about Waldorf to the present time. People from all around the world visit my site and recommend it to others. Welcome!

This site records my journey. I hope my honesty is encouraging and helps break down some barriers that may prevent people from trying Waldorf methods. Because this is an ongoing site documenting my curriculum planning and ideas, some materials are more Waldorf-y than others. Please feel free to take what you like and leave the rest.

This page has helpful links and LOADS of free resources to help you plan your fifth grade year. Enjoy!

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Friendly Letters
for Class 5

As with every other topic, Waldorf takes its time with composition skills.

Although you are constantly doing the writing process every single day as you work on the main lesson books (double-spaced rough draft on loose paper, editing meeting with an adult, final version in MLB), there are other kinds of writing besides just explanatory!

Personal Narratives are commonly done in 4th Grade. Steiner never mentioned Friendly Letters but I like to put them in 5th Grade. Having pen pals is handy when you are doing U.S. Geography. Steiner was VERY big on writing Business Letters in 6th Grade. In 7th Grade, children get into Creative Writing (this is the block called Wish, Wonder, and Surprise) and in 8th Grade they tackle Persuasive Writing, Essay Writing, and Speeches.

Obviously, it is not hard to explain the idea of letter writing to your child, so no textbook is needed! This is a good chance to make sure your child has memorized your complete mailing address, as well as the two letter postal abbreviations of all 50 U.S. States (or your home country).

Instead of as a main lesson, if you're setting your child up with a pen pal, it makes sense to do this throughout the course of 5th grade. However, it would be nice to make a MLB or even a scrapbook where you collect all of the letters you receive from different parts of the country!

Or, review 4th grade Personal Narratives with a spin by writing a picture book that is epistolary.... where the story completely consists of letters written back and forth... as in the case of these books below.

You can also do an entire block on the history of the stamp, the postal system, and post offices around the world. Homing pigeons? Telegrams? The Pony Express? The Railway Mail Service?

Start a stamp collection!

If you do choose to develop this topic into a main lesson, perhaps combine it with the Decimal Fractions block! You can look at old stamps which weren't "Forever" and calculate how many stamps would be needed to mail a first class letter today. I have stamps with amounts on them (27, 33, 37, and 44 cents) as well as a book of Tiffany stained glass 1 cent stamps. You can explain how small denomination stamps were added to large ones to make up the new cost of mailing a letter, and that large parcels used to come slathered with stamps instead of a barcode label.

If you find a vintage U.S. post card from long enough ago, it will say on the back "place one cent stamp here."

Postage isn't included in the Third Grade Maths of Practical Life, so it would be fun to do it now! And because it has to do with money, it's perfect as part of the Decimal Fractions block or for practice any time throughout this school year.

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood episode #1526
"How People Design and Make Postage Stamps" - April 1, 1984

Other ideas:

    make your own ink
    (see my blog post on Fermented Pokeberry Ink)

    write with a fancy pen

    seal your letter with sealing wax!



For fun, here is a list of stories that I know of which are written completely as a series of letters. Let me know if you find others!

Stringbean's Trip to the Shining Sea

by Vera B. Williams and Jennifer Williams
little boy writes a series of postcards home on a road trip from Kansas to see the Pacific Ocean

Thank You, Santa

by Margaret Wild
little girl from Australia becomes pen pals with Santa and knits things for the littlest reindeer

The Gardener

by Sarah Stewart
little girl goes to the city to stay with an unknown relative during the Depression, writes upbeat letters home about her attempts to garden in the grimy city and to make her grumpy uncle smile

The Journey

by Sarah Stewart
an Amish girl writes in her diary each day about her experiences visiting the city for the first time

The Quiet Place

by Sarah Stewart
little girl moves from Mexico to the U.S. and slowly adjusts to her home, nice for teaching about the Closing as you must watch carefully to see when this changes, will inspire you to build a box fort!

A Small Dog's Big Life: Around the World with Owney

by Irene Kelly
fictional mail but a true event, the extensive travels of Owney, "Mascot of the Railway Mail Service"

The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman

by Darcy Pattison
life-size wooden man hitchhikes from SC to CA as a gift from a loving uncle to his favorite niece (with specific city names like Rough and Ready, CA it is nice for inspiring a look at road maps)

Love, Mouserella

by David Ezra Stein
one very long very sweet letter (and a ketchup packet) from a little girl mouse to her grandma

Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914

by John Hendrix
this touching true story is excellent but would be better in Sixth Grade Philosophy ("Compassion")

The Mysterious Collection of Dr. David Harleyson

by Jean Cassels
not limited to letters, this puzzle-to-be-solved also includes restaurant receipts, train tickets, newspaper articles, play programmes, journal entries, business cards, telegrams, and more!

There's a great list of even more epistolary-themed picture books about pen pals and postmen in the Epistolary Picture Books That Will Make Your Child Want to Be a Pen Pal blog post by Gretchen Louise.

Of course, in the chapter book category we have

Dear Mr. Henshaw

by Beverly Cleary

Letters to Horseface: Being the Story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Journey to Italy 1769-1770 When He Was a Boy of Fourteen

by F. N. Monjo

For adults only:

Ella Minnow Pea: A Progressively Lipogrammatic Epistolary Fable

by Mark Dunn

A hilarious epistolary book about the residents of a fictional island, Nollop, where one letter at a time is banned from the alphabet due to weakening glue on the town's sign... and as each letter falls off the sign and is subsequently removed from all use, Mark Dunn himself no longer uses it (thus the "progressively lipogrammatic" part of the title).

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