Sunday, January 10, 2016

Alien Pen Pal Letters

Hello, friends!  It has been a while.   Let me tell you my first semester of this year has FLOWN by!   Between teaching, professional developments (and being a priority school we have A LOT!) and grad school, I am sitting here hardly believing it's January already!

   Today I introduced our alien pen pals.  They come from the planet Etheria and they know nothing about what Earthlings learn in school but they are very curious.  They made contact with us today (after watching us since September) and asked us to write to them and tell them about what we are learning.  (This is a Whole Brain Teaching idea for more info check out their website!

Now I have been playing my alien friends up all year.  Every time my students aren't up to par, I look at the ceiling and say something like "Um nope, my alien friends just contacted me and you are so not ready for a visit yet" (and yes I look PERFECTLY NORMAL when I do this during an observation o.O) , so we have had quite the build up.  When this arrived today it wa a BIG deal!

O....M....G did my friends eat this up!  Even the ones who knew I was TOTALLY faking it were on board!  Because as one of my friends said, "who doesn't want to write to an alien?"

We have been learning about story parts, so today we told our Etherian friends all about the parts of a story.   We wrote the letter together and I had them copy it into their Etherian Pen Pal Journal (aka a boring old notebook with a new fancy name).  My lovely friends worked so hard to get this done!  My jaw dropped!  Even my struggling writers worked their butts off! And it was a serious page long letter!  We had a lot to say!

Before this, I was getting groans at 3 sentences!  Look at what they were willing to write today!     When they were finished they could work on their journal cover and design their Etherian pen pal.  Check out the engagement!

They worked like this for 2 hours!  (We still need some work on working a bit quicker)  BUT I DON'T CARE that it took them this long!  They were engaged, they were persistent to get it done and they were excited!   It was a seriously great teaching day for me and a great learning day for my little second graders!  They were so proud when they finished!

The plan with these journals is to have my students write about each new concept they learn in both Math and ELA.  I will be scaffolding these with a fill in the blank type letter at first.   But eventually, most of my students will move to writing the entire letter on their own.

I do have quite a few friends with OT needs and a few non-writers this year and it simply takes them too long to finish an entire letter.  For these friends, I am going to provide a fill in the blank letter that they can glue into their notebooks.  I do plan to have the students write more on these as well, but let's face it, I am not going to torture them by writing an entire page right away! 

If you want to try this out in your classroom,  grab this FREEBIE!  It includes the letter, journal cover, alien to design in both Etherian and just alien form.  It also provides 2 different types of writing paper if you do not want to use a notebook.  I have also included 2 generic fill in the blank forms for struggling writers.  Get it here!


Give it a try won't be disappointed!  After all, like my friend said, "who doesn't want to write to an alien?" :)   Happy Teaching!