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Teacher from New York

Lisa, For my class of third

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Lisa,
For my class of third graders, pen pals are certainly not a thing of the past! The idea of communicating with another third grader in a different state (or country) is one thing that is always engaging. The most important factors in my decision to include pen pal writing activities into my classroom are for the cultural experience and of course the writing experience. Although we enjoying using technology to video chat with our new friends, we still continue to communicate via letter writing; nothing beats the feeling of opening a new letter! The writing process is such an important and developing skill at this grade level that it just cannot simply be left out. Frequently, several colleagues and I collaborate to integrate common core skills into letter topics. We typically like to have students discuss a recently learned topic or lesson in a different subject area each month. Of course, we still allow for friendly 3rd grade conversation regarding sports, hobbies, and interests!
As mentioned in your initial post, I think one of the reasons for the continued engagement in each student is due to an authentic audience. Students write and respond with such personal ideas and thoughts because they feel a sense of connection and understanding with their pen pal.
Recently, I was sincerely touched by the heartfelt letters that my students produced when I asked them to write to a close family friend of mine, who is currently an active duty soldier, serving our country overseas. They offered many thanks and just as many questions that they were eager to have answered, knowing they would soon receive their response.
In March, we will also be afforded the opportunity to video chat and correspond via letters with one of our classmates who will be leaving us here in New York to receive a medical procedure in Minnesota. The students are waiting with anticipation, the stories of their heroic classmate.
I love the opportunities and connections that are provided when we step outside of our classroom walls to learn about the rest of the country and the world through the words of another, just as eager to hear about our adventures!
Thank you for you post and the comfort in knowing that I am supported in my strong beliefs in the benefit of this classic educational practice!

5th grade teacher in Delaware

You, and your students, will

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You, and your students, will love it! We just mailed our second set of letters to our friends in Spain.:)

5th Grade Teacher

Wonderful idea! Several of

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Wonderful idea! Several of the teachers in my school have switched over to ePals or a similar online pen pal service. It seems that the students get excited, however not quite as excited as holding a letter in their hands. I remember being young and getting so excited over mail that was just for me. Your post has persuaded me to stick with old fashion snail mail and I cannot wait to get started!

5th grade teacher in Delaware

The kids really do enjoy

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The kids really do enjoy interacting with the basketball players! If you are interested in emails, Epals ( http://www.epals.com/#!/main) is a great resource. I know email can work, but my kids love getting letters!

This reminds me a little of

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This reminds me a little of my 5th grade class although we had a system where we were write letters to students in the school. Our teachers would have a mailbox where we would send our letters to who we have addressed them to in the school building. This was fun and exciting and as you say “not only is someone actually going to read their letter, but also respond to it”, that was the best feeling in the world. I think the simplicity of writing has been taken away from us because we do have technology that makes talking face to face easier than writing and waiting. I really like the idea of the basketball team interacting with the grade school class. I think students feel important and understand the meaning of a friend when they take time to learn about them through a letter than over Facebook comments. Since I am in a technology class I believe to accommodate my learning as a teacher I would set of email accounts for students to talk with pen pals. Similar to writing a letter, emailing requires thought and paragraph construction on a computer rather than paper. Since students are required to use technology more and more I think it would be appropriate for students to learn how the use email as early as possible. Of course the teacher would have to monitor the emails and acquire a pen pal that would have computer access I believe it still gives the same feeling as a letter written pen pal just in an up to date setting.

Instructional Technologist

My website started organizing

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My website started organizing a gingerbread man exchange 10 years ago. It's a great way to teach kids at their own place in the world versus others and geography or have writing/craft incorporation into a Gingerbread Man Unit. This year I'm opening up registration to groups and different grade levels. Each group can add their own spin on the exchange. Each class or group creates 20-25 Gingerbread Men and writes a letter about their group/area/school. Group leaders/teachers will mail one gingerbread man and one letter to each class/group listed on the exchange list I provide on December 4th. Gingerbread Men should be sent by December 11th. One gingerbread man will stay with you to start your collection. You should receive one from each person on your list.
We've had lots of positive experiences in the past and I hope this year is great too. Please think about joining. www.barrbunch.com

I completely agree that this

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I completely agree that this is a huge incentive for the students. I have used pen-pals in my French classroom for two years. We recycle vocabulary and it's a very real way to practice. In my opinion, the entire reason to learn the language is to communicate--this gives them the opportunity to really use the language right from the beginning. We exchange letters with a class in France that is learning English. The kids are required to hand-write their letters, because part of the lesson is cultural, and a real hand-written letter feels more real! (The actual paper and handwriting are significantly different.) I also find that my kids love to see that the French kids make errors in English. It lessens their stress. We exchange cultural lessons in addition to the written samples, so we just sent them a box with photos of Halloween and some candy with explanations of what Halloween is and how we celebrated it. My students are 13-17 and they all enjoy it!

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