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Pen Pals - A New Spin on an Old Tradition

A Great Teacher Resource on Getting Connected

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Throughout the years, writing and receiving letters in the mail has been the traditional way to communicate with a pen pal. In today's society, with technology at its best, students can connect with their peers and learn about other languages and cultures in an instant.

It's easy to give your students real-life lessons and allow them the opportunity to get hands-on experience about other cultures. If you were teaching a few decades ago, the only way your students could learn about Africa, is by reading a book or watching a movie. Today, teachers can give their students a first hand look into the lives of the African culture.

Here we will take a look at the many ways students can connect with their peers, and learn about the world around them.

How to Get Connected

Getting connected to the world outside is simple. The first thing you have to do is choose how you would like to connect. Below you find a list of how you can connect to other schools from around the world.

Write a Letter

The traditional letter will allow students to practice their writing skills. It will also give you a wide range of countries to choose from. Many countries are not up-to-date with the latest in technology, so having students write "snail mail" will give them the opportunity to practice skills, and learn about cultures they probably have never heard of.

Email

If you choose to have email be the main way of connecting your students to the outside world, then this too will give you a lot of countries to choose from. The majority of schools that are looking for pen pals will connect on the internet in some way or another. When students are composing an email they are learning and developing valuable writing skills. Email is also an easy and quick way to connect and get and receive information.

Instant Message

Instant message is one of the quickest ways students can connect and experience the world outside of the classroom. You may not choose this option as your main way of communicating, but it can be a weekly or monthly option for the students to connect.

Skype

Skype is a fantastic way for your students to visually connect with their pen pal. Sites such as All Things Skype are dedicated to connect with classrooms all across the world. This is a great way for students to virtually learn and see how other cultures live and learn.

Face-time

If you have an iPad, and can find another classroom from around the world that one too, then Facetime is the way to go. Most children are familiar with them, and have played around with the latest iPad apps. Facetime is the perfect way for students to see authentic language and use their skills to communicate with their "foreign" pen pal.

Finding a Pen Pal

Once you have chosen your main way of communicating, then you are ready to find a pen pal for your students. Here are a list of ways that will help you in your search.

Message Boards

The easiest way to find a pen pal, is to post a message on a message board about what kind of pen pal your class is looking for. The best time to do this is right before school starts. That is when you find teachers from across the world trying to connect with one another.

Pen Pal Service

There are a variety of services that can safety connect your classroom with a partner from around the world.

  • epals - Use this service if your main way of connecting is going to be via email.

  • Skype in the Classroom - Use this site to help you connect with schools via Skype.

  • International Pen Pals - This service uses the traditional pen and paper letter writing format.

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