May 31, 2012
One of BKW's second grade teachers, Michelle Pahl, knows the value letters and technology hold in keeping in touch with others. When one of her close friends, a fellow teacher, took a job in Alaska, she learned her connection could also help her students expand their lessons, make friends and experience a different culture.
It was lucky that her friend also taught second grade, and Pahl decided to pair up each of her students with a student in her friend's class so they could become pen pals.
"The pen pal aspect helps the students practice their writing," said Pahl. "We also did a state report lesson on Alaska to learn about the state and so the kids could find our how their new friends live."
This pen pal project helped in ELA and Social Studies, but most importantly, Pahl said, it kept them engaged.
After starting in September and writing to their pen pals all year, in May Pahl decided to use Skype so the students could see and talk to one another. Fellow BKW Elementary teacher Bill Dergosits let Pahl borrow his webcam and helped her navigate through the process of using Skype. Once the classes were connected, each student was able to stand in front of the camera, face-to-face with their individual pen pal, and ask them one question.
"The kids were so excited and got so involved in the process." said Pahl, "It was nice to work with a class that was the same grade, so they could relate to what each one was doing and even share their plans for the summer!"