How I Use It
This program would be great for homework or class work for further application. I would have students watch the lesson/section video as a class and then read the lesson quietly to themselves (in class). For homework the students could watch the video and read the lesson at home. And the following day the class could have a brief discussion and then have time to respond to their pen pal. There may be some difficulty adjusting the lesson to fit ELL readers or low literacy students, however, with some time and effort it is possible!
I went through the Race & Activism lesson and found it to be informative and age appropriate. All of the content was up to date and relevant. It's nice to know that while students are working on writing/reading skills they can also be learning about an important cultural topic. And the fact that the material can be discussed with other students (pen pals) is awesome! Students can be given the opportunity to not only hear but discuss different view points and cultures.
The only 'negative' thing is that if you have a wide rage of reading levels, you will have to modify the activities yourself. It is possible, as there are video, supporting images and a fairly short list of vocabulary. If this is not your main activity for reading, then it is still relevant for all students. The videos, pictures and text all focus very well on the topic. Also, PenPal School has a wide variety of material for almost any kind of class.
If you're planning on using this, make sure you plan ahead as there are date restrictions. If this is your class activity, then keep in mind, that the activities only run for several weeks; you will have to have additional material to fill up that time after the PenPal has ended.