I chose the ePals website because it seemed the best for finding groups who wished to communicate in a classic pen pal format. The search function made it easy to see what each instructor wanted to accomplish with their students. As for the activity, I’ve never really used a short term portfolio project for a single unit, so I wanted to try to create an activity that could feasibly be evaluated using a sampling of student work over a period of time. To begin, the students would write a baseline descriptive paragraph.
Then, using ePals.com, each class will be matched with a group of students from another country. Over the course of the unit the students will be required to exchange a minimum of four written missives using online resources (i.e. message boards, email, direct messaging). Over the course of the unit, students must also collect details from their pen pal in order to write a descriptive essay about a location from their pal’s country. At the end of the unit, students will compile their portfolio using the descriptive elements of their pen pal exchanges. They will need to include a set number of descriptive paragraphs, including the description of a foreign location. Students will then complete a self-reflection assignment comparing the quality of their baseline essay to the various descriptive paragraphs. The reflection will focus on growth, specifically in the areas of word choice, voice, and imagery.
My hope would be that students engage in genuine conversation concerning local geography and its effect on their lives. In describing the area, I’d hope that students on both ends would spark interest in how to deal with the challenges and benefits of living in different climates. This sort of conversation serves to increase awareness by allowing students to communicate with their foreign counterparts and humanize the people of different countries.
This activity would take place over the course of the entire description and narrative unit. Ideally, the unit would span most of a marking period.
Hi David, I too used ePals for my global awareness lesson and am excited to use it with my students this year. I think that the way you plan to use this activity is great! I love the idea to have students write a descriptive essay about their pen pal's location. I think this would be a very motivating writing activity and truly have students engaged through the research and drafting process of this assignment.