When your students enroll in a PenPal Schools topic, they can start learning with PenPals. First, students will need to complete the lesson. This includes watching a video, reading a text, and responding to a discussion question:
Students must write a great response to the question before meeting PenPals! Student responses must be at least 200 characters.
We provide students with a guide to see what a great answer looks like:
If they move to a different lesson before clicking “Send,” their response will be saved and they will not lose it. However, if they exit the window or log out of PenPal Schools before clicking “Send,” then they will lose their response. Once your student has finished their response, they click Send.
Students will then see a pop up window. Before they can submit their response, they must first double check to make sure it’s a high quality response:
If students are satisfied with their answer, they can tick the boxes and click Send. If they want to edit their response, they can exit out of this window and continue writing.
After students click send, they’ll be able to see responses from other PenPals in the topic, comment with questions and ideas, and provide reviews.
Additional Questions & Responses
“Can teachers screen messages before they are sent to PenPals?”
No. Once students click send, their message can be viewed by PenPals. This is an important way for students to practice digital citizenship authentically. You should also remind students that all of their PenPals’ teachers will be able to view their response, too, so there are a lot of eyes on their writing!
“Why aren’t PenPals responding?”
It can be hard to learn how to have a great conversation online, but there are a few things you can do to support your students. First, make sure that you are giving students enough time to read and respond to their PenPals. This may seem obvious, but giving students more time means that they can respond to more PenPals!
Another good practice is to teach your students what a great comment looks like. Students may be used to leaving comments like “Nice answer, good job!” Instead, teach your students to leave a comment that invites their PenPal to respond.
Some ideas include:
- Ask as question about their response or their community
- Share a resource or idea that supports or opposes their claim
- Give an example from your life
- Use the PenPal’s name to make it more personal. People are more likely to respond when you address them directly!
Students can also apply these strategies to their own responses to invite PenPals to leave comments on their answers.
If PenPals still aren’t responding, try reaching out to some of their teachers directly and ask them to encourage their students to write more.
“Can we connect over video?”
Since we focus on improving reading and writing skills, there is not currently a way to video chat directly through PenPal Schools. However, video is a great way to connect and learn even more about your PenPals! Teachers often coordinate video chats and other collaboration opportunities through direct message on PenPal Schools.
“How old are PenPals?”
PenPal Schools provides a variety of collaborative learning experiences for students from ages 8 to 18. Some projects are designed specifically for younger students and English-language learners, and each project is offered at three different difficulty levels to support learners with a wide range of abilities. You can preview any project to pick the level that’s best for your students.