Teaching students how to write thank you notes that show true appreciation is more than just the format of a thank you letter. It’s also about the emotion behind the note, and the specific examples and comments that make the thank you letter truly noteworthy.
Thank you letter writing is a lifelong skill, but it’s also becoming a lost art. In this age of technology, one might think a simple thank you over the phone or a text is sufficient.
But it’s so much more meaningful if your students can draft a short paragraph. They can send it by email or text, or they can hand write the note and deliver it.
December 26 is National Thank You Note Writing Day. This is the perfect time of year to teach how and what to write in a thank you letter.
You Can Begin Writing the Thank You Note Before an Event or Gift
It’s true. If you do this, it puts the idea of gratitude in the students’ minds before they receive something.
One example of this is in my Santa Claus Tracking writing activity. (Which is a free download from my Member Vault, BTW.) There are two pages for students to write a thank you note for Santa to leave out with the cookies, carrots and milk. It’s before the fact, but I know Santa will appreciate it.
Whenever my class had a visitor or a special guest assembly, or went on a field trip, we began writing the thank you notes before we even left the room. They chose their papers and wrote the salutation on it. Then they left the paper on their desks. The minute we got back, while the experience was fresh in their minds, they wrote about their gratitude.
It’s heartwarming to hear back from the people and companies. They always say how much it means to them to hear from the students. In turn, they’ll often invite your students back again.
Format for the Thank You Letter
You can use the same format for the thank you notes as the Perfect Pizza Lunch Paragraph. I dive deep into teaching this structure in my course, Building Strong Writers with Simple Systems, but the idea is straightforward.
- A respectful salutation. (We’re not going to write, “Yo, yo, yo!”)
- A thank you for the specific item or service. (Name it in the sentence.)
- A detail explaining why you’re thankful. Or a detail expressing when or how you’ll use it or how it makes you feel. (Details for thank you notes can be the what, why, how, when, and where.)
- An expression of something that’s forward looking. (Examples might be, I hope to see you soon. I am so glad you’re my friend. Every time I use this I’ll think of you.)
- The closing. In the closing, include again an expression of gratitude. You can never say thank you too much.
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Plan What to Say Before Thank You Letter Writing
The format requires students to brainstormup with expressions, reasons, and details for saying thank you. Have them choose their favorite part of an assembly or play. Or have them come up with ideas for how it made them feel. How will they use it, if it’s a gift?
This could be difficult if they aren’t used to writing thanks. It might also be difficult if it wasn’t a good experience or gift.
In that case, students will not only learn how to find the gold in their words, they’ll also learn tact and grace.
Let’s say a student is writing a thank you note to Santa before Christmas? They’re going to leave the note with the cookies, milk, and carrots. What should they say?
Some ideas could be:
- Thank you, Santa, for coming to our house every year and leaving just the right gifts.
- Santa, I appreciate you putting my gifts under the tree and in my stockings. I know I’m going to love them.
K.I.S.S. Keep it Super Simple but Touch the Heart
Using the format above, students can write a touching and meaningful thank you letter in just a few sentences.
The thing that makes this format stand out is the added detail about the gift or service. When a person expresses why they’re thankful, it adds a layer of appreciation to the note that’s lacking if they only say thank you.
Here’s an example you could share with your students to help them learn how to write a thank you note to a teacher.
Thank you so much for helping me learn my math facts. Now that I know them, my parents are proud of me. That makes me feel great!
Now every time I use my math facts, I’m going to think about how easy you made it for me.
The Most Wonderful Student In The World
Now wouldn’t a note like that touch your heart? That one would be a keeper! Speaking of keeping them, do you have a folder to keep all your letters and art that you get from your students?
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Five Good Reasons to Teach How to Write a Thank You Letter
- It’s a lifelong skill
- Showing appreciation for things they receive is a mindful practice
- People who write thank you letters after a job interview stay top of mind for the employer
- People who write thank you letters to family and friends strengthen those bonds
- Writing a thank you note shows respect for the other person
What Not to Do When Writing a Thank You Card
I wish you success in teaching your students how to write meaningful thank you letters. I also hope that you receive plenty of them from your students!