Pen Pal Schools

Do you want your students to have penpals?

Why?

Students will learn technology skills like maintaining a digital reputation and how to collaborate online while working on strengthening their writing skills on a certain topic. Projects can be tailored to different subject areas like art, science, math, social studies, and language arts. They also have subject areas in Chinese and Spanish. They will also build their reading comprehension while reading the parts of the project from different areas around the world. Also when reading what other students (their penpals) are writing about the topic from different areas around the world. All projects are working to promote language, technology, and social skills. They also have the opportunity to express their opinions respectfully, build curiosity about different topics and areas around the world, and work on their social and emotional skills.

Why Not?

This site is only free to the first five teachers who enroll from each school for the entire year under their “pilot” program. But it would only be free for those teachers for one year. If they wanted to continue to use the site, the following school year they would need to pay. It doesn’t seem cheap either $1900/year for the whole school. I was unable to find what the cost breakdown would be if you just wanted to do it for yourself and not the whole school.

Who?

The projects can be tailored by age. On the getting started page you pick 8 and older, 10 and older, or 12 and older. So you would be able to pick based on what the age group you are working with. That being said there is not something available for younger than 8, so it wouldn’t fit all classes.

Lesson Ideas

Holidays and Festivals of the World

This is a 3-week project and is tailored for students 8 and older. Over the course of the 3 weeks the students will learn about religious holidays and secular holidays and then in their final week they will spend time reflecting on what they have learned. During the reflection week they will be collaborating with their penpal on a collaborative task. The essential question for this project is, how can studying holidays and festivals help us learn about people in different communities around the world? Throughout this project, questions are posted on boards where the students can engage in a discussion with their penpal to answer things regarding what they have been looking at and studying on their topics. They are encouraged to use evidence from the text, pictures, and videos that are apart of the project. If you want to know more about this project for your classroom here is the link to review this project.

Protecting The Planet

The big idea or essential question for this project is, are individuals, community organizations, and governments responsible for protecting the environment? If so, are these groups doing enough to ensure that the next generation has a healthy project? In this project the students are working together with their penpals for a 6-week project and tailored to 8 and older students. In those 6 weeks they will learn and discuss about a pollinator problem, the great barrier reef is under attack, a ground breaking crisis, saving rhinos, under the sea, and kid heroes for the planet. Within each week they are working together with their penpal and learning about the topic together. They are doing this with reading, viewing, and watching content about the topic and then are writing together by posting their opinion respectfully or they are writing about what they have learned. Here is more detailed information about this project if you want to know more.