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How to Design a Pen Pal Program for Your Classroom

Your Kids Will Learn Language Arts, Social Studies, and more

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A pen pals program is one of the most fun ways to give your kids a real-life lesson in Social Studies, Language Arts, Geography, and more. Begin working on pen pals with your students as early in the school year as possible, so that you can maximize the number of letters that the participants can exchange.

The Benefits of Pen Pals

Pen pal relationships offer a number of significant inter-disciplinary benefits for your students, including:
  • valuable practice at writing letters in the proper format (Language Arts standard)
  • increased awareness of societies and cultures from around the world (can be tied into Social Studies, Geography, and more!)
  • a chance to maintain ongoing communication with people who live far away
  • increased odds that your students will continue to be letter writers for the rest of their lives

Email or Snail Mail?

As a teacher, you must decide if you want your students to gain practice at writing traditional letters or at composing emails. I prefer to use pencil-and-paper pen pals because I want to contribute to keeping the lost art of traditional letter writing alive. You'll want to consider:
  • the grade level you are teaching
  • the availability of computers at your school
  • the level of computer literacy of your students

Finding Pen Pals for Your Kids

Using the Internet, it's fairly simple to find enthusiastic counterparts from around the world who would like to partner up with your classroom.

  • Post an announcement on an education-related Message Board. Simply put the word out about where you are, the grade level of your students, and what kind of pen pal relationship you seek. Every summer, our Message Board bustles with pen pal activity, so it should be fairly easy for you to partner up.
  • Sign up with a Pen Pal matching service. For example, International Pen Friends shuns email pals in favor of keeping the art of traditional letter writing alive. Fill out their School Class Application Form and, for a fee, you'll be matched up with other interested students from around the world. ePALS is one of the largest email pen pal sites, so it's definitely worth a visit if you want to go the email route.

Keep Pen Pals Safe and Secure

In today's society, you need to take extra precautions in order to keep activities safe, especially where children are concerned. Read Internet Safety Tips for Kids in order to minimize the risks involved with pen pal communications.

You should also read through the letters your students write to make sure they aren't giving away any personal information, such as their home addresses, or family secrets. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Get Connected and Get Started

As your Pen Pal program continues, one of the keys to success is keeping in close contact with the teacher you are working with. Drop him or her a quick email to let them know when they can expect your letters to arrive. Determine ahead of time if you are going to send each letter individually or in one big batch. I would recommend sending them in one big batch just to keep it simpler for you.

Explore the wide world of Pen Pal resources on the web and get ready for a school year full of new friends and fun filled letters. No matter how you choose to design your classroom's pen pal program, your students are sure to benefit from the interactions you facilitate.

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