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Kindergartners connect in pen pal partnership

Krystle Wagner • Jun 5, 2017 at 12:00 PM

As Georgeanne Larsen read letters written to her students, the Lake Hills Elementary School kindergartners smiled and excitedly chimed in with comments about each note.

Since February, Larsen’s young Lake Hills students have teamed up as pen pals with Trisha Larsen’s class at West Michigan Academy of Arts and Academics. In addition to being in kindergarten and in West Michigan, the classes also have another connection — Georgeanne is Trisha’s daughter.

The pen pal partnership stemmed from a social studies lesson called “Our Community,” which involved students learning the importance of addresses and phone numbers, Trisha said. As part of the lesson, Trisha’s students visited the Spring Lake District Library and local post office. Students wrote and mailed a letter to a classmate for Valentine’s Day.

“They were so excited and proud that they did this,” Trisha said.

Teaching students reading, writing and math at 5 and 6 years old can be challenging, Trisha said, but showing them how those skills are important in their lives provides an added meaning.

Since Georgeanne’s students were also learning about opinion writing and how to write a letter, Georgeanne said the partnership also gave her kids the chance to extend their lessons into the community.

Trisha said students learned about the importance of penmanship so the recipient can read the letter, and how words are incorporated into written and oral communications.

“Seeing their faces and hearing their excitement in writing has been worth every bit of this process,” she said.

Kindergartner Ashton Stevens said he enjoyed having a pen pal because he learned they like similar things.

The two classes are arranging an opportunity for families to meet at Grand Haven’s Imagination Station this summer so the students can meet. Stevens, 6, said he’s looking forward to hopefully meeting his pen pals in person.

With the 2016-17 school year coming to a close, Georgeanne expects they will continue the pen pal partnership next year with a few changes.

Georgeanne said her students have grown through the experience, and it gets them excited and engaged with writing. Adding the pen pal element also gives them a real-life application of the skills they’ve learned.

“It’s been really fun,” the Lake Hills teacher said.

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