Our kids know how to e-mail, chat, and text.  Do they know how to write a personal letter? Last year, I gave my eighth graders regular opportunities to write letters  by pairing them with senior citizens they had never met. Their assignment was to write monthly to their new friend, asking questions, answering questions, and developing a relationship. At the end of the year, when all those goals were accomplished, they used the research they gleaned from the letters and wrote a biography of their pen pal. They then adapted their paper into a speech, which they presented to the pen pals at their first face-to-face meeting.

Of all the assignments and projects they completed during the year, this was by far the most successful, establishing enduring relationships and giving students a real reason for writing and public speaking.

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Micah and Arlene
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Rosie and Rosie (and Rosie's mom)
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Leah and Dot
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Ethel and Lianna (and Lianna's mom)
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Sara and Jonas
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David and Alyssa--This was the only sad part of the project. Alyssa's pen pal was David's wife Joyce until she suddenly passed away.
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