The Purdue Online Writing Lab is a tried and true resource, especially when it comes to writing recommendation letters. In this annotated PDF, you read a sample letter with best practice tips and examples. If you're new to writing recommendation letters, this a good format to follow. It's easily adaptable to any student, from any class.
Andrew Simmons writes this guest article on his many years of experience in writing letters of recommendation. Having written well over a dozen letters a year, Simmons shares his new perspective and approach to the letters. He tells of the personal responsibility that weigh on teachers, and how teachers can manage these anxieties. Before writing any letters, definitely read this article!
The staff at Peterson's put together a list of the most popular questions asked by students to college admissions officers. Since it's been a long time since we teachers sought our own recommendation letters, this is a good recap on what students think when you write their letters. As you can imagine, many of them are concerned to what level the letter impacts their candidacy. It might be constructive to have conversations with students about these things so you're all on the same page.
Many college still require physical letters of recommendation, but over 700 have decided to use the online Common Application to read letters of recommendation. It's a really streamlined way to submit letters. Once the student submits your email address, all you need to do is create an account and send it in. It's really that simple, and once you have your account, you can use it to submit letters for other students, too.
Rebecca Safir shares three examples of bad (actually, atrocious) letters of recommendation with PrepScholar. In the sample letters, you will see the lack of important elements: enthusiasm, an established personal relationship, and overall confidence in a student's future academic performance. Cross-reference your letter with these to make sure you're doing all you can to help, not hurt, your students.
Douglas Christiansen, Ph.D is the Vice Provost & Dean of Admission at Vanderbilt University. He explains what he looks for when it comes to selecting students for the university, and why the letters are still so important to the admissions process. When you reach 6:40, Dr. Christiansen explains basic issues with "forgettable" letters. Later on, you see the contrast with a letter that makes the prospective student "pop" and impress the admissions office.
Penn State hosts a page detailing the Ethics of Authorship, which address issues with writing letters of recommendation. A situation that may arise is when you decide to decline writing a letter of recommendation for a student. Saying "no" is sometimes the most ethical way to handle things, but there are ways to let the student down gently. The section on "Saying No" provides six ways to explain why you're not a great fit as a letter writer for the student.
Manya Whitaker writes this article for Inside Higher Ed to share what makes for the strongest letters of recommendation. Whitaker tells teachers to take everything into consideration, such as whether they're the right teacher for the letter, and how to avoid cliches and commonly used phrases. If you're passionate about your letters of recommendation, this is a good read to help take them to the next level.