Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Pen Pals

Glenn Rutland
Santa Rosa District Schools


Students become pen pals from other countries and research their countries for information that will help with their writing. This information is then sent to another student who is also portraying someone from another country.


The student reads and organizes information from multiple sources for a variety of purposes (for example, supporting opinions, predictions, and conclusions; writing a research report; conducting interviews; taking a test; performing tasks).

The student uses strategies to spell words (for example, using resources such as dictionary or thesaurus to confirm spelling).


-Writing paper and envelopes for each student
-Atlas, almanac, and other resource books


1. Have atlases for students to use.
2. Provide a variety of resource books to use as reference books.
3. Have pictures around the room of various countries.
4. Have available sample bibliographies for the students to follow.


Day 1
1. Explain to students that they will become fictitious students from other countries of their choice. Students brainstorm things they would need or want to know about a pen pal living in a different country; things such as age, name, address, family, hobbies, parents' jobs, school routine, types of houses, types of food, customs, current news, government, climate, landscape, tourist attractions, currency, and even the language might be included. At some point before the first letter, students should tell the teacher their ficticious name and what country they are from.

2. Students begin to research their countries to gather information that they will use for their characters. Remind students that they need bibliography information from the books that they use for information.

Day 2
A trip to the media center would be a good place to finish gathering the information for this project. (Remind students to collect their bibliography information.)

Day 3
Using the information gathered in the past two days, students are now ready to write their first letter without knowing who their pen pals are to be. The letters must be based on true facts of the country each chooses to be from. Each letter should be authentic as if the student was living in that country. These letters should give informational clues, so the receiving student will have informational text to help determine their pen pal's location. Clues such as population, longitude & latitude, major job opportunities (types of industries), and area landmarks would also be helpful. Do not let the students limit themselves to these clues.

Day 4
Put all of the letters in the international mailbox that you could have your students make. Allow each student time to take out one letter (without looking at them all). This will be their new pen pal. It is important for the students to keep their real identity a secret. The “not knowing” is half the fun. With every new letter each pen pal writes and receives, added interest in the countries should be evident and more research needed. Ongoing communication takes place at the discretion of the teacher. Structured time should always be there for this purpose. It is suggested prior to each time set aside, the teacher should go over examples of successful types of pen pal writing.


Assessment occurs through observation and completion of the requirements for this activity (See Associated File).


1. Have two classes exchange pen pal letters. This would make it easier to keep the students' identities a secret.
2. Math: Students could determine distances once the identities are revealed. They could graph the populations. They could determine their country's percentage of the world population.
3. Social Studies: Hang a large world map on the wall and have students use an object (flag, pin, highlight) to indicate where the country is located.

Attached Files

Requirements for Pen Pal activities     File Extension: pdf

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