A Student Pen Pal Is A Great
Opportunity For Your Students!!

Being a student pen pal was one thing which was out of the ordinary and my students loved it.

It takes a lot of organization and preparation, especially at the beginning, but it's so worth it. What a wonderful opportunity for your students to make a friend with someone outside the school area or even province or state.

The school pen pal programme is truly a wonderful experience for everyone involved including yourself.

I have done this several times during my teaching career. I have several friends who also taught in the Toronto School Board and if they didn't teach the same grade as me, they hooked me up with a teacher on their staff who did and who was interested in the student pen pal programme.

My kids really enjoyed another kid pen pal in the same city because we always met each other at the end of the school year at a park for a meet and greet, picnic, games and just a great time together!

One year, I organized a classroom pen pal programme with a school in another province which wound up being very fascinating for all of us (not sure if that programme still exists)!

Once I connected with another teacher in a different school, we organized what we wanted to do throughout the year. The older the grade, the more appreciative and involved the students can become. It also really depends on your enthusiasm and how committed you are.

There are a few things my pen pal teacher and I planned for the pen pals for kids programme:

1. Introduction Letter - details of themselves - family life, friends, hobbies, clubs, music and TV shows they liked, etc. Have them include a picture of themselves as well. Teaching them about how to write a letter is a whole lesson in itself.

2. Monthly Letters - either once a month or every 6 weeks they wrote to their pen pals about what had gone on since the last letter and things they were looking forward to.

3. Art/Cards - my students made various cards for their student pen pal - Halloween, Christmas, Valentines, Easter, birthday, end of the year. Also any art items, friendship bracelets, etc. that could be sent in the mail through the school courier.

4. Communication - besides writing letters to their classroom pen pal, students can contact them on their own if they choose to - my students called them on the phone, emailed them or even contacted them on Facebook. Of course, this was on their own time and if both students connected, the relationship really took off.

The letters each of my students wrote to their student pen pal was never edited by me. I did read them privately (after first asking mt students' permission). Luckily the school board has a courier system where we as teachers don't have to pay postage.

I mentioned before how much work is involved at the beginning of this student pen pal programme. It's the matching up of your student with a student in other class.

If you can, which I did sometimes, was arrange a time where I met with the other teacher and matched up our students. By email or by phone are other ways to connect.

Things to consider when matching up student pen pals: their academic standard, their athleticism, their personality, how social they are, family dynamics, etc., etc. The matchup is so crucial because if some students are mismatched, they won't be happy campers and won't be writing too much in their letters or want to do much for their classroom pen pal.

However once the matching up is squared away, the letter writing and art items can be considered part of the Literacy and Arts curriculum or even Music ( if you play musical instruments or like singing songs, you can tape it onto a cassette or CD or video tape it and send a DVD).

Being a teacher , I know you all have a lot on your plate and some of you spread yourselves pretty thinly.

However, what an absolutely rewarding and unique experience for your kids - the student pen pal programme. Some of my students continued on with their pen pal after the year was over and for years that followed. Why deny your students that opportunity?

To me, it was a win-win situation! The best of luck to you if you plan to do it in the fall when school starts again.

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