After introducing the objectives we were going to be working on, I told the students that we were going to become pen pals with a another 5th grade class located in Colorado. I pulled up the Elementary School in Colorado using Google Maps. I then plugged in the coordinated for our school so the students could see the relative location of our pen pal school to us. We then used the map to calculate how far the school was from us and about how long it would take us to get there. We discussed what a trip like that would be like and pointed out the states that we would cross getting there. I asked the students if they had any information or knew anything about the states we were crossing through. We then calculated the cost of gas that it would take getting there and back.
The next step in the lesson was to open our ELA Interactive Notebooks that we have been using all year. We put an example of the structure of a pen pal letter into our notebooks to refer to later. We discussed what each of the parts were called and how to add information to it. For the first letter, we decided that the first paragraph should be an introduction of ourselves. We then added ideas in as a whole group on what kinds of topics were appropriate to share with our pen pals. We agreed that 5 sentences would be adequate in the introduction. The second paragraph was to be questions to ask our pen pal. Again, we shared some ideas on things we would like to know about our pen pal including what it was like where they lived, what the weather was like, or more personal information and added that to our notebooks as well. Again, the idea of appropriate questions were also discussed. When we received our letter back from our pen pal, we talked about the first paragraph answering the questions they may have asked us and providing an appropraite amount of detail. 5 sentences were to be least they should be writing. The second paragraph would ask more questions to get to know their pen pals.
After students were aware of how to set up their letter, they got started. They were to have all of the components of the letter that we had put into our Interactive Notebook. If they needed help during this process, I was available. ELL and IEP students were guided through this process step by step in order to ease any frustration of having to write this amount of work. Students were able to share what they were going to write to their pen pal to their shoulder partner. They were also able to answer/ask any lingering questions to their shoulder partner before having to ask me.
After the students self-checked and then partner checked, they were able to pull out their laptop. They opened a new Word Document to start typing their letters. After they finished that, they came to me to check over their work. I was able to individually discuss what the different lines (red/green) meant when words/phrases/sentences were underlined. I also reminded them how to indent, enter, and capitalize using the SHIFT bar. Once it has been checked over by me, they were allowed to sign into Edmodo. A group has already been created with my students as well as the students in Colorado. My students posted their letter into the small group that has been created for them and their pen pals.
After posting 2 letters back and forth, the students were able to meet! We used Skype to video communicate between the two classrooms. We used the iPad to open Skype with. Students were prepared with a few talking points to "meet" their pen pal face to face. Each student had about 3 minutes to chat before it was the next students turn.