Pinewood fifth-graders take letter writing seriously

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published May 14, 2012

 Pinewood fifth-grade student Joseph Lor-Vue works on his persuasive letter May 8 for the school’s soldier drive.

Pinewood fifth-grade student Joseph Lor-Vue works on his persuasive letter May 8 for the school’s soldier drive.

Photo by David Schreiber


WARREN — The mood felt still inside Joanna Serra’s fifth-grade classroom the morning of May 8.

With pencils in hand, the Pinewood students put their thoughts on paper while writing persuasive letters in an effort to collect items for the school’s soldier drive.

The students — looking up periodically to read the Smart board — wrote to various people to help gather everything from razors to soap to boxer briefs and more for the soldier drive, which the student council organized.

Even in today’s high-tech world with computers, email and texting, Serra wants her students to learn the basics of letter writing with plain pencils and paper. It is a practice the school’s teachers use on a regular basis. Pinewood is part of Warren Woods Public Schools.

“Technology is super, super important, but students have to have that foundation. They need to know how to effectively communicate with people,” Serra said. “We use the Lucy Calkins writing and reading workshop.”

This year, Serra has guided her students as they have written letters to their parents, community members, organizations and other sources.

Another way the students perfect their writing skills is through the school’s Pinewood Paws Postal System. With an index card, the students write to each other, to their teachers and to Principal Jon Wennstrom regularly. The correspondence is delivered every Thursday.

“It’s another way to encourage writing in our school,” Serra said. “They almost treat it like it’s a postcard.”

Serra has noticed how strong her students’ persuasive letter writing skills have become this year, but added, “They need to improve on their transitions.”

An exciting assignment for Sebastian Chang was writing to the Detroit Tigers organization to inquire about possible participating in the school’s career day this year. While arrangements to catch up with a player unfortunately didn’t come through, Chang received a rather cool packet — with stickers, a photo, a schedule and an official letter — from the team.

“I was the only one to get one of those,” he said. “It was pretty special.”

Chang realizes the importance of letter writing.

“You can’t rely on the computer too much,” he said. “You might have a power outage.”

He also likes the school’s post office service, through which he sends postcards to his younger brothers in first-grade and kindergarten. Messages include “good luck” and “keep going.”

The students also corresponded with U.S. soldier Angie Mossian while she was stationed in Afghanistan. The military member is the cousin of fifth-grader Jimmy Borgesi. It was exciting for Serra’s students to meet her last month when she visited and talked about her experience overseas.

“I used to call her when she was in Afghanistan. She asked to come to the school,” Borgesi said. “I didn’t really like her in the Army. I wanted her to be home. I missed her.”

A couple gifts Mossian gave her younger cousin upon returning home was “a badge from her uniform” and some Afghan money.

In her persuasive letter to the soldiers, Kylie Ray wrote a piece to the members of the church she attends: Heritage Baptist in Sterling Heights. She’s positive the congregation will help with the Pinewood soldier drive.

“We do a lot of stuff like this at our church,” she said.

Ray likes the idea of practicing the process of letter writing.

“It’s helping a lot as we get older,” she said. “We have to learn the basics before we get to technology.”

The soldier drive runs until May 25. Community members are welcome to drop off items during school hours. Pinewood is located at 14411 Bade Drive.

Items needed include long socks, hygiene products, air fresheners, soft toilet paper, Vaseline, coffee, protein bars, food items, handmade cards, books and more. Some items are for the soldiers and some are for the Afghan children.