Aprilanne Lynch is a PenPal Schools Global Ambassador from Chicago, Illinois, USA. She teaches 5th grade and her students love to learn about what’s happening around the world with PenPal Schools. Visit her blog for resources and tips!
By Aprilanne Lynch @lynchified_422
However, it was the end of the school year and we sent our letters by mail. By the time our pen pals got our letters and responded, we were out of school and never received them. It pained me not to know if she received my message! It would have been amazing to get to know someone outside of my hometown. Was she similar or different than me?
So, how do I give my students the experience of getting to know a student that lives beyond our country’s borders? By having my students write to PenPals with PenPal Schools!
1. Go through the project lessons yourself before assigning the project to your students.
Read each article and watch the videos. Try answering all of the questions with your students in mind. While doing this, think, what skills will my kids need to be successful at doing this? This way, you are preparing for questions that kids may have and if they get stuck, you will know what to do.
2. Pre-teach a writing skill that they will need while writing to their Pen Pals.
One of the biggest things I realized was that my students did not know how to write in a complete sentence or how to construct a proper paragraph. So, I taught those skills before they began. I also pre-taught how to use evidence from the text, add detail to an answer, and edit before hitting send.
3. Do the Mystery PenPal Class activity.
Under the introduction tab on your Teacher Dashboard, there is an activity called “Mystery Pen Pal”. It comes with a lesson plan and printables. It helps teach the kids how to start a proper conversation with their PenPals.
This was hard for me! I always have so many interruptions in my day and I am very short on time. Nonetheless, I still found 30 minutes during my week where my students log into PenPal Schools, read and write, and check in with their PenPals. Having this consistent routine for kids also made sure they were always checking in with their PenPals and engaged in the learning with them.
5. Check in with your students weekly and give them feedback on what they are doing with their assignments.
You have to treat it like a regular assignment that you give in your class! That means you have to check in to make sure your students are writing. On your Teacher Dashboard, there is a grading feature that allows you to give feedback to your students on how they are doing with the assignment and talking with their PenPals. If you do this consistently, the students are more likely to take it seriously and give good responses.
Take some time to look up the places where your students’ PenPals are from. Find out what is happening there right now and have a discussion in your class about it. It will make it more real for your students.
If you use PenPal Schools and you have a tip to help make the experience better and help you set up for the first time, please feel free to add to the comments below or share in the Global Educators Facebook Group!