Remember that pen pal project I’m doing with students? Almost everyday I receive pictures and a letter from someone writing to their Sapgyo High School penpal. I put the pictures onto Flickr and then I write the blog entry, and take the pictures from Flickr (to save space) and put them in the blog post. Then at the beginning of every class I choose one letter (I try to pick easy to understand letters, or letters from cool places with great pictures) to share with the class and we read through it and comprehend it together. After that I show all of the pictures from all of the other letters we received that week, give brief backgrounds about the people who went them and the locations of the letter, and then give physical copies of the letters to each student. I unfortunately don’t have time to go over all of the letters in detail with the whole class, but at least this way we can read one letter together, they can see all of the pictures, and people get physical copies of their individual letters.
It’s a fun project, but I’m never sure how much students are getting out of it. They’re always excited to receive letters, but how much do they pay attention to the letters versus the pictures? I tried to get people who live in many different places and have many different jobs and lifestyles to write back, do my students understand or internalize that at all? Do any of my students interact with the project outside of class?
I just found out that yes, in fact, at least some of the students are interacting with this project outside of class. A student dropped by the teacher’s office during the lunch period and asked for my help. She’s a 2nd grade intermediate student, which means she’s very busy, and spends most of her free time studying. She put down in front of me a letter she written to her penpal in response to his letter, and asked me to help her edit it. She was so pleased with her penpal’s letter, she wanted to write one back to respond and to say thank you. I never even suggested that students should write back, this was her idea entirely. I helped her edit it, and then she told me she would give me a copy so I could send it to her penpal. A student did work outside of class of her own free will, practicing English, because of my project. I feel really happy right now. Thanks everyone, who wrote a letter to a Sapgyo High School student – it means a lot to me, and it apparently means a lot more to them than I had thought or even hoped it would.