Lesson Resource of the Month: Pen Pals

Pen Pals by multiple contributors

Did you ever have a pen pal when you were younger? The decades-old practice of sending letters back and forth with a friend whom you may never have met in real life has faded out as we have moved deeper into the Age of the Internet, but many educators still try to incorporate pen pal programs into their classes in order to help students develop writing skills and learn about life in a different part of the world.

As Fulbright ETAs, it’s part of our job to act as cultural ambassadors and facilitate cross-cultural exchange. Pen pal programs are an appealing, effective way to work towards carrying out this goal, but setting up such a program can be a daunting task. Finding another class with which to work, editing student work, planning out a system for sending letters—there are a lot of variables to consider. Fortunately, we at Fulbridge are here to help.

If you’re looking for a classroom with which to do a pen pal exchange, check out our map providing details on ETAs in placements across the globe. Click on a pin to learn a little bit about an ETA, as well as find out if they are interested in doing a pen pal exchange or may be a good candidate for doing one with your classroom. (If you haven’t already added your own pin to the map, please do so!) If you can’t find a good fit on Fulbridge, consider searching on these websites as well:

  1. The Teacher’s Corner

This website also features a map where you can find teachers interested in doing pen pal exchanges for their classes, or where you can advertise your own classes for an exchange.

  1. Pen Pal Schools

Register to set your students up for a virtual exchange of ideas with students from across the world.

Even once you have found a classroom with which to do an exchange, though, you may still face a series of logistical challenges, as well as uncertainty as to how to effectively teach ESL lessons as part of your pen pal program. Past ETAs from various placements have gone through such difficulties, and below we have included descriptions of various programs they had enacted.

  1. General ideas from various Malaysia ETAs

You can find general reflections on pen pal programs from 2011 – 2012 Malaysia ETAs here.

  1. Pen Pal Postcard Project by Robert Haley (Taiwan ETA)

You can find a presentation file explaining Robert’s pen pal program here.

  1. Make a Postcard by Hillary Veitch (South Korea ETA)

You can find Hillary’s presentation on designing and writing a postcard here.

  1. Elementary Letter-Writing Lesson by Meghan Manning (South Korea ETA)

You can find Meghan’s lesson plan for a letter-writing activity with her gifted elementary school students here.

  1. Personal Letters Lesson contributed by an Indonesia ETA

You can find materials for a lesson designed to teach secondary students how to write personal letters below:

  1. Flat Stanley Project by Nikki Muyskens (South Korea ETA)

For younger students who may not have the ability or maturity to write full letters, a Flat Stanley project may be a good way to facilitate cultural exchange and grow students’ interest in learning more about the outside world. You can find a more details on Nikki’s Flat Stanley project below:

  1. Letters from Haksengs by Monica Swei (South Korea ETA)

Interested in modernizing the pen pal exchange and creating a video project instead? Check out Monica’s materials from her “Letters from Haksengs” (학생 hakseng = student in Korean) below:

Best of luck as you proceed with your pen pal program planning! It may be a lot of work, but your students will likely remember it for far longer than any grammar concepts you teach.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *