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Pen pal project in writer's workshop Messages in this topic - RSS

Joan Tornow
Joan Tornow
Posts: 4


1/22/2010
Joan Tornow
Joan Tornow
Posts: 4
We have just begun a pen pal project between 5th graders in Santa Fe and 3rd graders in Seattle. Our first discovery: 3rd graders can't read cursive very well, so the 5th graders will be printing next time. Also, we discovered it's better not to use last names, not only for security, but because last names are hard for young children to read and pronounce. Any other tips from people who have done pen pal projects?

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Joan
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User 426077
User 426077
Posts: 1


2/16/2010
User 426077
User 426077
Posts: 1
My fourth graders are currently exchanging pen-pal letters with students in the teacher education department at the University of Idaho. It's been an incredibly engaging activity at both ends! With each letter exchange, I ask my students to inform their pen-pal about what we're currently working on in class. Having them do so, reinforces the learning and gives me insights to each individual's understanding. Needless to say, highlighting compound sentences in a letter from a pen-pal is a lot more fun than doing a worksheet! Also, our friendly letter form shaped up quickly when we used the document camera to see how our letters looked compared to some of our pen-pals' letters.
Good luck with your pen pal project, and kuddos to you for giving students an authentic reason to write!
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Joan Tornow
Joan Tornow
Posts: 4


2/24/2010
Joan Tornow
Joan Tornow
Posts: 4
Thank you for your response. This project is shaping up very nicely. One little girl here in Seattle was writing to her pen pal in San Jose, and she said, "I have so much to say that I feel like my head is going to explode!" This is certainly the kind of motivation we want to see in writing classes, and this project is providing it. The students are writing for a real audience. I think the cross-grade mix is nice -- that is, we have third graders and fifth graders exchanging letters. Because they are in different grades, there is no tendency to compare or compete. The 5th graders can feel benevolent and caring toward their younger pen pals, and the younger ones are inspired by their fifth grade pen pals. Also, the third graders seem to feel honored that these older students are writing to them. For this project, the goal is to write with authentic voice and purpose. Therefore, issues like organization, while important, are perhaps not the MOST important thing. So, we are not requiring revision, except in rare cases. I'd love to hear more from you and from others who may have tried this.

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Joan
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Mark Merz
Mark Merz
Posts: 8


3/11/2010
Mark Merz
Mark Merz
Posts: 8
What a great project idea! Please continue to let us know how this is progressing :)

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Web Editor
Heinemann Publishing
mark.merz@heinemann.com
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Joan Tornow
Joan Tornow
Posts: 4


4/27/2010
Joan Tornow
Joan Tornow
Posts: 4
Thank you, Mark. The project continues to be very successful, especially in motivating young writers. The students in Seattle and Santa Fe have now exchanged 5 sets of letters. Most recently, the Seattle students focused their letters on describing a field trip to the International District (formerly known as "Chinatown") in Seattle. During the field trip, they were furnished with 4 single-use cameras which they shared and used to document what they were seeing on this field trip. The trip included a visit to a Japanese supermarket, a community garden, an Asian museum, and a Chinese restaurant for lunch. The photographs were wonderful. Each child picked one photograph to send to his/her pen pal, along with a description. The Santa Fe recipients were delighted to hear about this field trip. The Santa Fe students are now busy producing a play on the environment. They will be focusing their next set of letters on this play, sharing the experience with the Seattle students. We've constructed a hall display of this project. More about that later ...

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Joan
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