So you’ve signed up for The USPS Pen Pal Project. You’ve received your kit. You’ve been matched with another classroom. Now what? Check out our tips for making the most of The USPS Pen Pal Project.
Reach out to your partner teacher right away
If you haven’t done so already, email your partner teacher. Your working relationship is key to your classes’ success in this program. Make a friendly introduction (Hi! I’m so excited to be paired with you for The USPS Pen Pal Program. I’ve been teaching for __ years, and I’m looking forward to a great year of correspondence between our students.). Then you can jump into some of the nuts and bolts.
Get your students matched up
Consider taking student interest inventories to pair students up. It may be helpful to partner students who have similar interests to get and keep the conversations going. You likely won’t have the exact same number of students as your partner class, so get those eager students on board to double up on pen pals where needed.
Build in regular letter-writing time
Because we all know, if it’s not in the plans, it’s not happening. (No? Just me?) We recommend you plan to have your students write at least four times a year. Build in lesson time to teach (and re-teach) how to write a friendly letter and allow time for students to plan and write their letters.
“I don’t have anything to write about,” says every elementary student ever. Check out the Topics to Write About and Questions to Ask boxes on the My First Draft worksheet on the back of the poster that was in your kit. And watch for our USPS Pen Pal Project newsletter for ideas on what to write about during the year!
Continue to model
As part of the Let’s Write a Friendly Letter lesson, you’ll be modeling writing a letter and addressing an envelope. As you progress through the year, your students will likely need additional modeling around topics that come up, like how to respond when your pen pal doesn’t give you much to work with or how to ask good questions.
Preview all letters before mailing
To protect student privacy, do a double-check that they are only using first names. Read through those letters to make sure that they don’t include anything they shouldn’t (like an email address) and that content is appropriate. (A “what not to say” lesson may be a good preventive measure here).
Ask families to donate stamps
You have four large envelopes so you can send your students’ letters, but you’re going to need postage. Include an ask to families in your weekly newsletter, so it’s not coming out of your own pocket. You’ll also want to check to make sure you have the correct postage at the time of mailing.
Think about where you’ll get extra stationery
You’re set up with some adorable cards for that first letter. Remember that you can always visit our site to print more. For future correspondence, we have a great letter printable for you. Perhaps some families want to donate postcards. And there’s nothing wrong with good old loose-leaf paper!
Make it fun!
Every communication doesn’t have to be a formal letter! You could try a shared art project, where one partner draws or colors part of a piece of art and the other partner finishes it. And we definitely recommend you schedule a video call with your partner class. (Get our tips on that here.)