Engaging in a pen pal program with another Montessori School can be a wonderful growth experience for our Montessori Elementary students. They are in the second plane of development when cultivating social interactions with their peers becomes one of the most prominent aspects of their motivation.
Pen Pal Relationships
Writing letters gives the children repeated opportunities to practice the format and conventions of a personal letter, and the children do it happily. The processes of writing, practicing beautiful penmanship, editing, and observing correct spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization are rendered light work in the context of engaging with their international friend. At this stage in their development, the children’s minds are capable of imagining a friend in a far-off land. That their pen pal is wondering and discovering things about them, just as they are wondering and discovering things about their pen pal is fascinating! They are learning about the culture of their pen pal, while purposefully sharing what they think is important about their own culture.
If there is a language difference, at least one translator will be needed and the nuances of language expression can be interesting. For example, here in the U.S.A., we say ”Happy New Year,” but other cultures mark the passing of one year to the next with greetings specific to their culture.
The children may include art. Self-portraits reveal the artist in a way that goes beyond words and the correspondents’ personalities are further revealed in drawings and decorations included in their letters. At some point, photographs and even live chats may be deemed appropriate to facilitate the relationship.
Going out to the post office and calculating postage costs and delivery times provide real-life context to the practical and math skills that those things require. Even experiencing the necessary wait for a letter in response to the one they have written gives children meaningful impressions of time and thoughts of interdependencies. How many people must handle the letter until it reaches its destination? How many modes of conveyance will be involved? How many political boundaries, geographic features, and bodies of water will be crossed?
Pen pal relationships are a great way to take advantage of the worldwide community of Montessori!