Five Benefits of Class Pen Pals

Enrich your students’ educational experience by connecting them with other young learners in different parts of the country or world.

By Mollie Moore

Letter to a friend

As teachers, we are always looking for ways to add an exciting spin or creative twist on subject matter that has the potential to become mundane and ordinary. Do you have friends who are elementary teachers in other parts of the country? Or even just in another district? How about overseas? Every one of us likely has at least one such contact, even if they are not far geographically. Why not team up with that person and arrange for your students to be pen pals! The potential benefits of such a simple arrangement are tremendous.

1. A Fun Opportunity to Recall Learned Material

Each time you have your class members write letters to their pen pals, provide them with at least a suggested subject area to discuss in the letter. They can share with their pen pals what they have been learning lately in class, and ask their pen pals in turn to share whether they have been learning similar or different things.

2. Practice with Real-Life Letter Writing

Nothing excites kids more in school than getting to apply learned skills to real-life situations involving real people. From writing the letter itself to addressing the envelope, applying a stamp, and dropping it in the mailbox, children will delight in the process of writing and mailing their very own letters. Not to mention it's fun of receiving a letter in return—addressed to them personally!

3. Exposure to Different Regions and Cultures 

If your class has the privilege of being pen pals with a class in a different country, opportunities for cultural lessons will be more obvious. (Children’s letters may address their countries’ holidays and traditions, weather, and school day schedules, for instance.) However, even pen pals from the same state will have plenty of experiences that make them unique from one another. You may provide your class with guiding questions to get them started on these conversations with their pen pals.

4. Creative Utilization of Technology in the Classroom

Skype conversations with your pen pal class can be as exciting as a field trip! It will allow your pupils to have live interaction with their new friends. You may also choose to encourage some e-mail correspondence in addition to or in place of snail mail. In this day and age, as e-mail has nearly taken the place of snail mail, it is crucial that proper form and courtesy in e-mail correspondence be taught from a young age. What a perfect opportunity to do just that! There are countless ways to incorporate technology into this project. 

5. Long-Term Friendships May Actually Develop!

Although it certainly will not be the norm, every once in a while you very well may have a student who really hits it off with his or her pen pal, and the two of them may really get into the discipline of back-and-forth letter writing. It is especially rewarding for teachers when we get to see something we implemented in our classroom move beyond our walls and become a part of a child’s life by their own initiative.

Have you thought yet of who you’ll get in touch with across town, across the country, or across the world to make pen pals a part of your students’ learning experience this year? Happy letter writing!