Writing Letters: Peace Corps Coverdell World Wise Schools Correspondence Match Program

Last weekend I got two envelopes with letters from Kelly’s class in Michigan and Jessica’s class in Missouri.  Today I had my Classes 4 (ages 9-13) and 5 (ages 11-13) students write letters back to them.

I have known Jessica since sometime around 6th or 7th grade.  We both were on the same gymnastics team, rode the bus together to junior high, gossiped about boys, wrote notes during classes, spent the summer hanging out at the pool, thought we were cool for hanging out at the mall, and had a great time together.

I met Kelly last year at the HLAA (Hearing Loss Association of America) convention and she’s currently wrapping up student teaching.  Kelly is deaf as well (how about that…2 teachers named Kelly, both happen to be deaf and both happen to be bilateral CI users…lol) and she is a great advocator.  She was told she would be unable to get her teacher’s license if she used an interpreter during her student teaching…but she took a stood, fought against it, and won.  Check out this article http://www.cm-life.com/2012/02/28/college-of-education-reverses-decision-on-deaf-students-use-of-an-interpreter-to-attain-teaching-degree/

I signed up for the Peace Corps Coverdell World Wise Schools Correspondence Match Program.   So far I’m signed up for 2 classes in America but am hoping to sign up for a 3rd classroom at a deaf school in America.

I wanted to make this activity FUN for my students without them becoming frustrated since they do struggle with reading and writing.  There are so many different things I can do with being a part of the classroom match program and today was my first try at trying to feel things out as how to make this work.  It went pretty well overall except there were a couple of times where students copied everything word for word even if it wasn’t accurate (e.g. everyone wrote that their name meant morning when that wasn’t always the case).

They were so excited when I pulled out the letters and pictures.  They loved the pictures and tried to read the letters out loud.  I made a few lists to help encourage them to read the letters (e.g. What students in America like to do.  What they like to eat.) which they used to look for words in letters.  I originally wanted to put together a couple of papers with pictures/names because my students are very visual but the Internet wasn’t cooperating at the time so I ended up drawing some of the items they weren’t familiar with.  My students are VERY curious, full of questions, and want to know everything.

Then I told them that they would be writing letters to America.  They all had the “deer caught in headlight” look on their faces and were about to freak out.   I reassured them that I would help them.  I basically had a template that followed something like “My name is……,” “I like to play…….,”  I like to eat……,” etc.  and took them through it one sentence at a time.  I wrote each sentence on the blackboard, had them sign the sentence, copy the sentence, and then had them complete the sentence with their own answers as independently as possible.

It is a challenge trying to make projects challenging while building confidence at the same time.  So many of my students have been told they’re dumb and that they cannot do things.  However, I do not want to take it easy on them because then that would be holding them back.  I want my students to be challenged without becoming frustrated because their self-confidence is already low….it is a fine line to walk….and one that I wasn’t sure I would be able to do with this project.  Overall, it went great.  At first, they were very unsure about if they were doing things right and if they were drawing pictures correctly (they kept asking me to tell them what to draw even though I kept telling they could draw whatever they wanted).  They relaxed once they realized they were in control of what they wanted to write and draw.

They worked hard for an hour and were proud of their work.  I wanted to take a picture of them to send to Kelly and Jessica’s classes and they asked if they could hold their letters in the pictures (a couple wanted to hold textbooks as well).

My students LOVED it.  They kept asking if they could do it again next week.  I can’t wait to do it again and to do different activities.

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