Copperas Cove, Kalamazoo third graders become pen pals


Special to Leader-Press 


The ease of texting and emailing have made these methods the preferred ways to communicate for many of the young generations. 

But, Martin Walker Elementary students are learning that there is still power in the pen—or at least the pencil—and they are developing not only writing skills, but lifelong friendships. 

Third grade teacher Molly Goldshmeding is originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan. 

Her brother, Ben Sleeman, still lives in Michigan and is also a third grade teacher. The siblings decided to create pen pal partnership between their two classes.

“We are writing a couple letters each month through the duration of the school year and held a Zoom meeting to celebrate Christmas together before the holiday break. This allowed the students to visually introduce themselves to their pen pals so they could see who they are writing to,” Goldschmeding said. “We sent pictures and video snippets of the students reading and writing the letters in class to create a positive energy about future letters and the Christmas celebration.” 

Goldshmeding came up with the idea while talking with her brother about some of the similarities and differences with teaching the same grade level but in a different state and how they could take this unusual time during the pandemic to engage students in a fun and exciting way. 

“We wanted to come up with a way we could connect our students to one another and create something the kids genuinely look forward to,” Goldshmeding said. “It has been neat to see the kids so excited and curious about interacting with kids their age from across the country.”

Sleeman and Goldschmeding are incorporating the letter exchange into a learning experience in reading, writing, English, language arts and even math with the calculation of travel time for the mail service and the cost of postage. 

“It shows the kids that what they are learning in the classroom can be applied to the real world and can help create those connections and a love for learning,” Goldschmeding said. “We are also planning on sprinkling in some social studies with researching each other’s respective states, having the students generate some quality questions to ask their pen pals, all while being immersed in the experience.  

In addition to improving their academic skills, the letter writing campaign also teaches students to focus on others rather than themselves.

“I’m learning what my pen pal likes. He likes to go deer and turkey hunting,” student William Phipps said. “And, my pen pal seems really nice.”

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