Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Grade 3 Keypals Connect

(The following is a contribution from Ms. Cummings, Supervisor of Curriculum and Instruction.)

In the old days, (before there was e-mail), there used to be Penpal Writing Projects between schools. Students would write letters to one another the old fashioned way. Back then, teachers needed paper, pens, envelopes and stamps to make Penpal Writing Projects happen. Unfortunately, it could take weeks (or longer) sometimes for the students on the receiving end to write and mail their responses back.

How low tech can you get?

During the months of April and May, third graders in Walnut, Evergreen and West End Schools are participating in a KeyPal (as in computer keyboard) Writing Project that immediately injects excitement into the old Penpal Writing project concept. Instead of writing and sending letters by ‘snail mail,’ the six third grade classrooms in the district have been organized into pairs and are communicating via their teachers’ email accounts.

Dear Mrs. Stanek's Class,

Good morning! This is Ms. Estep's third grade class from Evergreen Avenue Elementary School! We are very excited to be your Keypals. We have a lot of questions about your class and your school, but first we are going to tell you a little bit about us!

The students work in teams to first decide what special things about their school they’d like to share with the other third grade classroom. Those ideas gradually become sentences and paragraphs that the grade 3 teacher types into the body of an email message to be sent to the Keypal classroom.

West End School is really fun. We have a new principal this year. His name is Mr. Myers. He’s kind of young and likes to have fun with us…

The next step is for the students to think of questions they would like answered in their keypals’ first message back. There’s no doubt that third graders are very curious writers indeed! For example, here’s what Mrs. Romano’s students at Walnut wanted to know about their West End keypals:

• How old is your school?
• Do you have centers?
• Is there a prize box in your classroom?
• How many students attend your school?
• What are your school colors?

Once a message is received and read aloud to the class, the challenge is to keep the communication going. Third grade teachers are taking advantage of their school computer labs or their C.O.W. (laptop Computers On Wheels) special class time to work on their Keypal Writing Project.

The grade 3 teachers report that students are so motivated to send and receive keypal messages, that plans are moving forward in at least two of the six classrooms for the keypals to meet face to face before the end of the school year.

1 comment:

Deneen said...

I love the idea of having "key pals" within the district. I attended Walnut St School for most of my elementary education, and going to the high school was scary to me because I only knew about 10-15 people.

Great ideas! I love watching this distict become more and more innovative.