Third Grade Students Make Friends Across the Country
Students in Ms. Rezcallah’s class have been working with a partner class in Lakeside, California over the past several months to communicate the old-fashioned way: by snail mail. That’s right, they’ve had pen pals! Ms. Rezcallah signed up The Pen Pal Project through the US Postal Service because she wanted to enhance students’ reading and writing skills, teach letter-writing skills and components, and to foster community connection by facilitating friendships between students in the same grade level in different parts of the country. Since the start of the project, Ms. Rezcallah has seen student growth in several different areas, including students’ writing skills and their ability to engage socially with peers.
Recently, Ms. Rezcallah and her partnering teacher decided to dedicate time for students to meet their pen pals “face to face” via Zoom. They worked with Westlawn’s school based technology specialist, Ms. Dushok, to create a session that both classes could join. After students had a few minutes as a full class to get acquainted with the class in Lakeside, Ms. Dushok opened breakout rooms and students had the opportunity to converse one-on-one with their pen pal. Students were extremely excited to speak with each other and quickly built rapport and found similarities between their lives in Virginia and in California.
When students reflected on their experience after the Zoom meeting was over, they had so many thoughts to share with Ms. Rezcallah. According to Adela, “I loved it! Even more than love! I thought it was better than amazing, awesome, and love.” Elliott was surprised and delighted to learn that both he and his pen pal had read the same book, and Daniel was surprised to learn that both he and his pen pal knew about George Washington and that they could both speak Spanish. Other students said that they learned about their pen pals’ pets, interests, and preferred school subjects. All students were in agreement that future meetings should be arranged, and they had several specific suggestions to make it better. Six students requested to have more time to chat, seven suggested that each student should have headphones or fewer students to a space to make it easier to hear, and one even suggested a field trip to California to meet in person! While we probably won’t be able to make that happen, both Ms. Rezcallah and her partnering teacher are prepared to help students continue to write to each other for the rest of the year, and have tentative plans for at least one more Zoom session.