For my family literacy project, I chose to implement a family writing pen pal project with 3rd graders in Augusta, Georgia. The idea behind this project was to get my students writing and communicating with a family member they did not live near or communicate with often. I also knew that my students did not have experience with letter writing, addressing envelopes, and communicating through letters so this would be a good learning experience for them.
To begin this project, I first began by sending home forms explaining to the families of my students what my project consisted of. On this form, I explained the project and had my students and their families brainstorm a family member to correspond with.
From there, we began reading picture books that were all about letter writing so that my students would get some ideas flowing about how to correspond through letters. I brought in some letters to share with my students from my past but we also looked at letters from history. We also began learning how to write letters and address envelopes. Once all forms had been returned, we took a few days to begin brainstorming and writing rough drafts. Once students wrote their rough drafts at school, students took them home and gathered ideas from their parents of what else to include in the letter to make it personal. After revising with parents, students came back to school to write their final draft of the first letter. I was able to order stamps, fun writing utensils, and different types of cards, postcards, and letter writing paper. This made the activity even more exciting for my students.
Inside of their letters, I included a note explaining the project and who I was. I even received some responses from family members of my students thanking me for this opportunity to build that relationship with their younger family member – HOW COOL & REMEMBERABLE!
We began writing at the end of April and continued corresponding through the end of May. My students got to correspond with family members in other states and other parts of Georgia. When students began receiving responses, they were so excited and eager to respond. Some students received pictures, recipes, and other items that they were able to keep. This was a time for me to sit down individually with my students and help them respond in a way that would receive a quality response back…constructing a introduction, body, and ending for the letter while also answering any questions asked in their response. Thankfully, all 18 of my students were able to receive at least one response back. Some were able to respond back and forth a few times before school ended. This has created a bond between my students and family members that they have not seen in years or grandparents they have not seen in a while due to COVID.
During the last week of school, I held a Zoom call with my class and their family member pen pals (those that could join). During this Zoom call, we were able to share the fun of the letter writing, what students/families learned about each other, and heart warming stories that were share during this literacy project. Connecting students with their families through letters was an experience that I will continue to implement with my 3rd graders year after year.