In my opinion, we turn a very dangerous corner when returning from Winter Break. We still have a half of the year left, the dreary weather traps us inside...throw in the lovely plagues circulating this time of year and you have yourself a recipe for disaster!
My kids have been major troopers through the winter doldrums, but I really needed to shake things up in my classroom this time around, so I did some serious soul-searching. After a few days of observing and feeling out my students, it was clear to me that our writing time needed spicing up. We follow the Lucy Calkins series at our school, which I L-O-V-E, but a change in routine is always a bit nice.
I needed something exciting. I needed an authentic experience. I needed something right up my little firsties' alleys. The answer? PEN PALS! With a few text messages and some number crunching, I teamed up with an old colleague in Virginia to launch our state-to-state partnership.
I'll be honest here. I did not get the reaction I was expecting the first day I introduced the pen pal idea to my kiddos. Snail mail is a bit of a foreign concept in today's age, so understandably, they were a bit confused, a little lukewarm, and I was...disappointed.
HOWEVER. Enter a few weeks later when our very first pen pal letters arrived (the same day we mailed ours!). IT. WAS. MADNESS. I mean, we had a pen pal paaaarty, you guys.
Sound enticing? To start pen pals in your classroom, you will need a few things:
1. A class to correspond with. Think close to home--while another state or country is exciting, another school in the district will blow your students' minds just as much as a group of students across the country.
2. A plan.
- How will you introduce the idea of pen pals to your class?
- How often will you write?
- Who will write to whom?
- Will you have themed letters each month or simply write back and forth?
- Will you have a culminating event at the end of the year?
To answer those questions, this is how my colleague and I implemented our pen pal plan:
- How will you introduce the idea of pen pals to your class? (I began with a slide show that gave the kids photo clues throughout the day (a pen, pals, the state of Virginia, a mailbox, etc.) & made the official announcement at the end of the day.)
- How often will you write? (Once per month)
- Who will write to whom? (We compared numbers and did a simple boy-boy, girl-girl match, wherever applicable. We ended up with a few boy-girl pairs. Whatever floats your boat!)
- Will you have themed letters each month or simply write back and forth? (Our students write a monthly newsletter and use themed letterhead each month---check out the product below or click here to see it!)
- Will you have a culminating event at the end of the year? (Since we are in different states, we plan to have a surprise FaceTiming session at the end of the year. Each student will get face-to-face time, either over the course of a day or a week---this is TBD.)
To get a FULL pen pal start up kit to use the whole year through, click on the image below and get to writing!
If you'd like to sample the pen pal kit and get started with a simple introduction letter, click here to download a few sample introduction letters for your little learners!
I hope the rest of your year is filled with wonderful writing, new friends, and exciting mail deliveries! Happy writing!