When students are comfortable sounding out words, I set up a post office. I used a shallow, sectioned cardboard box. One section was stocked with paper. I used a regular sheet of 8 and 1/2" by 11" white paper cut in half. I folded each sheet in half to look like a greeting card. Then I would demonstrate how to use the post office. I used a wonderful little book to introduce the post office called "The Jolly Postman" by Ahlsberg. It is set in familiar nursury rhymes and fairy tales. As the jolly postman visits each familiar setting there is a card or letter that can be pulled out of the page which is shaped like an envelope.
On the outside of the card students were to print the name of the person the "card" was intended for. This was never a problem as names of classmates are the first thing students learn. Besides each student's name was clearly written on the outside of his or her personal "cubbie" (mailbox).
I was going to use stamps that came in junk mailings for ordering magazines but I found too many inappropriate pictures. Then I discovered I could make my own "stamps" by using a plain white piece of paper. I would use my own sewing machine without any thread in the needle to make the perforated edges. Students could easily tear off one stamp and attach it to the outside of the "card" with a gluestick I kept in the supply box. They got to design their own stamp by drawing a picture such as a flower or a famous face on it.
Inside the "card" they were to write a message. It was usually pretty short and simple such as, "I like you" or "Can you play at my house today?"
If students complained that they didn't ever get any mail, I would encourage them to write some letters asking for some. This however was rarely a problem.
What I learned: Children enjoy this new way to communicate and express themselves.