Students will write letters for a specific purpose and audience.
- Send a Letter, Make a Friend reproducible
- Letter Template Sheet reproducible
- Chart Paper
- Teach Students How to Address and Mail Letters Lesson
- Final Project Checklist reproducible
1. Before class, determine the best way to set up a pen pal program for your class:
• Pair up with another teacher in your district or state who teaches a different grade or at a different school.
• Use online resources to find a teacher in another state or country who is interested in pairing with your class.
2. To start, ask students: Have you ever received a message from someone who lives far away?
3. Explain that pen pals are people who send letters back and forth through the mail. Pen pals may live in different cities, states, or even countries.
4. Have students discuss the following questions with a partner, then share with the class:
• What could pen pals learn from each other? Answers may include: what life is like in another region and the different kinds of activities kids like to do in another region.
• Why would pen pals want to send letters through the mail instead of via emails or texts? Answers may include: being able to save letters for a long time, to show thoughtfulness, to add a personal touch through handwriting or drawing.
• What questions would you want to ask someone who lives in a different place? Answers may include: What’s your favorite thing to do for fun? What is the weather like there? Are there any special traditions where you live?
5. Distribute the Send a Letter, Make a Friend! activity sheet. Have students write the questions they want to ask their new pen pal as well as what they want to share about themselves.
6. Once students have planned their questions, distribute the Letter Writing Template so that students can draft their letters. Encourage students to keep in mind their audience (their new pen pal) and their purpose (to learn about life in a different place). Make sure students are not sharing personal information, addresses or phone numbers, but are writing about their interests and experiences. Write the school’s address on the board for students to use as the return address on their envelopes.
7. Remind students of the due date to bring in a stamp from home so that their letters can be mailed along with their classmates’ letters.
8. Use the Final Project Lesson Plan instructions to guide students to complete and mail their letters.
Help students research U.S. Presidents and First Ladies who had pen pals. The book Lincoln and Grace: Why Abraham Lincoln Grew a Beard by Steve Metzger can provide an entry point for the class.