- Grade level: Upper, Lower Elementary
- Subject Area: Language Arts
Students will begin communicating over e-mail with students around the world in preparation for future collaborative activities. This lesson can provide a great supplement to traditional language arts activities, such as writing for an audience, reading for editing, and writing a journal, and can introduce students to different perspectives and points of view. The concept of students as global citizens and appreciation for people of different cultures, societies, and countries are stressed in these types of activities, as students come to know and respect other students outside their local community. A personal connection between two students can help each understand the others' point of view and broaden their thinking on local, national, global, and personal issues of interest.
- Learn to communicate using text - reading, writing, and editing.
- Work in collaborative groups.
- Understand different perspectives of students from around the world.
Materials and Resources
In developing our lessons and activities, we made some assumptions about the hardware and software that would be available in the classroom for teachers who visit the LETSNet Website. We assume that teachers using our Internet-based lessons or activities have a computer (PC or Macintosh) with the necessary hardware components (mouse, keyboard, and monitor) as well as software (operating system, TCP/IP software, networking or dial-up software, e-mail and a World Wide Web client program, preferably Netscape, but perhaps Mosaic or Lynx). In the section below, we specify any "special" hardware or software requirements for a lesson or activity (in addition to those described above) and the level of Internet access required to do the activity.
- Special hardware requirements: None.
- Special software requirements: None.
- Internet access: Low-speed (less than 28,000 BPS via modem).
Before beginning this lesson, the teacher should locate and coordinate e-mail exchanges with students in other classrooms by visiting the resources listed below (see Web Resources). Posting a message to these e-mail discussion lists or Websites will publicize that students are looking for keypals. This should lead to another teacher contacting you and setting up an ongoing exchange, or perhaps a group of classrooms sharing e-mail.
Prior to actually starting the keypals lesson, teachers may also want to consider how students will receive and respond to their e-mail messages. There are at least two ways of doing this:
- Each student can have their own e-mail address and receive their e-mail directly, without teacher involvement. Teachers may want to discuss issues related to privacy and security for students, and establish rules for conduct over e-mail, prior to letting students send and receive their own e-mail. In addition, parents should give their permission for their children to participate in these e-mail exchanges.
- the teacher can use their own e-mail address for all messages sent and received, and then use the SUBJECT field in the e-mail message to direct mail to specific student names. This allows the teacher to filter all the e-mail sent and received, before passing it along to the students. This oversight obviously requires more time and effort on the part of the teacher.
- use a classroom address for all students that is different from the teachers as a collective space for incomming and outgoing e-mail.
Also in preparation for this lesson, consideration should be given to when students will be allowed to read and respond to their e-mail, and how this activity will fit within their other classroom work. One way is to have students communicate with their keypals around specific writing tasks (such as describing their local community, research their doing, etc.) or on specific topics - related to science, social studies, etc.
- Begin by discussing mail as a form of communication in general, and e-mail specifically, and introduce students to the concept of sharing ideas and experiences across time and space. Students may already be familiar with writing to pen pals, family members, or sports figures, and these experiences will help them appreciate the activity.
- Discuss any rules of conduct and procedures for using the computer to send and receive e-mail beforehand. Some teachers with a single computer in their classroom (or at home) have had success with students rotating computer usage for reading and writing e-mail while other students are involved in other activities.
- Incorporating the e-mail exchanges into the curriculum is also important, and can be shaped by topics of study or interest, newsworthy items, social and cultural issues, or even current events. Use these as opportunities to situate the communication within other classroom tasks.
- E-mail messages can be sent as they are typed, or saved and sent in a batch in the evening, when phone rates may be lower. Likewise, messages can be received all-at-once or when they are received by the e-mail server.
- Student writing should be directed toward their audience, and they should be encouraged to read and edit their messages before they are sent. Likewise, messages received should be read carefully for spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
- Pen Pal Connection
Where you can register your students and/or classroom, search for pen pals, and remove your name from the list.
- E-Mail Key Pal Connection
Inspired by the philosophies of John Amos Comenius, this site supports registration for keypals by a request form.
- Intercultural E-Mail Classroom Connection
The St. Olaf College site has a number of e-mail discussion lists that you can join to help connect classrooms across states and countries. These lists are for teachers, researchers, and include projects that can operate over the Internet.
- International Penpals @ Jill's Home Page
Jill maintains a page for teachers and students who are looking for key pels.