This beautiful project idea comes from Lilian Montalvão, a teacher in the Active English teaching community.  She works with Primary aged students in Colégio Magnum Cidade Nova in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

We think starting the new school year with a letter from students like this is a wonderful way to help lower anxiety and make students feel special.

mail box teaching idea - letters from students

Letter from students – How it started



At the very end of last year, I had the idea of asking my Year 2 students (who were about to move to Year 3) to write welcome letters to my next Year 2 students, telling them whatever they thought my new pupils should know about our English classes.

At that time I still didn’t know how I was going to use the letters in 2019, but I was absolutely certain they’d make my new students feel positive and reassured about our classes together.

The letter from students tuned out beautifully, with such thoughtful words.  I was glad to see how engaged my 2018 students were in this activity and delighted with what they’d mentioned in their messages. Besides kind words about the teacher (lol) ☺, they mentioned the games, songs, videos and even TESTS as things that they had enjoyed about our lessons.  This was motivating and useful feedback for me.

Well, 2019 started, classes were about to begin and I still hadn’t figured out an interesting way to introduce the letters to my new students. After a great online meeting with Claire and some of my colleagues (from the online course Setting up for Success), I finally worked out how I’d introduce those letters to my new group of students.

The next day I grabbed a cardboard box, painted it red and turned it into a really cute mailbox (that’s it in the photo above!). Then I bought envelopes for the 30-something letters I had and put them in the box.

On the very first class

I arrived to the classroom with my teacher-trolley (thanks for that idea too, Claire!) with that shiny red mailbox on the top tray. Of course many kids immediately started asking questions about it. (Hooray!) After a round of fun greetings and a Hello Song, I finally got the mail box, shook it, asked a few questions to make them come up with hypothesis about the box and what was inside.

Next, I read aloud a letter that I had got from a student last year. I then talked about how happy I felt when I received that letter and that it had made me wonder if my new students would also like to get a letter – a welcome letter! Immediately the reply was  “yes” from many of the students and I also saw even more smiley faces and wide-open eyes (priceless!). They were even more surprised when I opened the box and they saw that pile of letters coming out. I suspect they thought I’d meant there was a single letter addressed to the whole group.


I prepared them by pre-teaching the sentences that were written in English in all of the letters and felt so proud to watch them trying to read those sentences aloud when they finally received the letters. What motivation and engagement!

Welcome to year 2!

My name’s _______.

I’m ___ years old.

Good luck!

The rest of the messages were written in Portuguese as for this activity I needed the students of 2018 to really express their message clearly and their level of English had not (yet) reached the stage where they were able to do that well enough.  This mix of languages was fine by me.

As my new students finished reading, I invited them to come to the post office and post the letters in the mailbox for my next group of students (I have 7 groups). It was very rewarding to see their happy faces during the activity and also to hear students asking if they were also going to write a similar letter at the end of this year. They definitely will!

I hope you enjoyed Lilian’s idea as much as we did and, if you try it out, please let us know how if goes!


  • Claire Venables is a qualified English teacher who has been dedicated to ELT since 2001. After a decade in Spain, she moved to Brazil in 2011 where she has worked in the creation and implementation of bilingual programs in schools, the development of teacher development courses, as a national and international speaker, materials writer, active member of the National Association of Teachers of English (BRAZ-TESOL). Despite her wide-ranging experience, she is and always will be most passionate about teaching children.