Have you joined PenPal-A-Palooza yet? Each day, thousands of students are making global connections and exploring different topics. Project based learning with PenPal Schools makes it fun for students and teachers to develop reading, writing, social and emotional learning (SEL), and digital citizenship skills!
PenPal-A-Palooza ends February 28, and each week we are going to recognize 4 all-star students that demonstrate excellence in reading, writing, social & emotional skills, and digital citizenship! Here’s a sneak peak of what we’re looking for in our PenPal-A-Palooza All-Stars and how to support your students so they can win an award:
Wonderful Writer: To win the Wonderful Writer award, students will have to put all their writing skills to the test! PenPal Schools encourages writing across disciplines, and we’ll be looking for Wonderful Writers in all of our topics. While spelling and grammar are important for this award, we will also be focusing on bigger skills such as structure, transitions, punctuation, writing style, and originality.
Here’s an example from a recent PenPal Star who participated in American Perspectives:
“Hi, I am in 5th grade at Fox Meadow school. I love writing and love my school. Even though I love my school there is definitely some things that I know I could improve in education, or test scores. After reading this text and watching this video I realized that education isn't perfect everywhere. If I had the power to improve Public Education around the world, the first thing I would do would be make classrooms smaller. Someone I know transferred to a private school after two months of six grade at public school. At his private school he had a class of 5-10 kids and two teachers. This could solve two problems. The first problem that this could fix would be test scores. If classrooms are smaller, then teachers could give more special help on things that there students are struggling with, but have already learned. If students get more time specifically on one thing, then when they take their test, they will be easily prepared and ready, which would most likely increase test scores. If schools had smaller classes like that in elementary School, and maybe 15 or 20 kids in middle school, it would be easier to understand the more difficult things in high school, and that would most likely result in less high school dropouts, and more people that could go to college, and get a better job when they are older.”
In this informational piece, this student used a strong structure to present her idea, provide evidence, and conclude why small class sizes were important. Their transitions and puctionation make it easy to follow their argument from the beginning to the end. This is a great example of what a Wonderful Writer would look like in 5th grade
Dynamite Digital Citizen: Are your students Dynamite Digital Citizens? To be recognized for this award, we are looking for students that actively creating a positive digital reputation, protect their personal information and passwords, do their best to prevent cyberbullying, practice international mindedness, contribute to productive online discussions, and efficiently search for information online
Lila from Honduras shows excellent digital citizenship skills while reflecting on what she learned in Facts, Opinions, and Fake News.
“[I learned] how much fake news people can make and how easy people can verify if their sources are trustworthy. It takes very little effort to make up a credible sounding piece of news as we proved with our fake news article but I've learnt that the spread of that kind of news can be avoided with a quick search.”
Lila’s reflection contributed to a positive discussion about the dangers of Fake News. Additionally, her well thought-out response is helping to create a positive digital reputation as she discusses Fake News with other PenPals. Encourage your students to practice and demonstrate digital citizenship today for a chance to win this award
Excellence in Empathy: Students that win the Excellent Empathy award will show social and emotional learning (SEL) skills such as respect, self-awareness, empathy, collaboration, motivation, social engagement, identifying problems and analyzing solutions, ethical responsibility, and international mindedness.
Bella from Kentucky is a great example of a student that would win Excellent Empathy for her work in Holidays and Festivals of the World. After learning about holidays around the world, she decided to create her own holiday: Everybody Matters Day.
“We’re trying to change the way people look at Valentine’s day. Either, great, you’re in a relationship and this day is for you, or you’re not and this day isn’t for you. Everybody matters, and we want all students to receive a kind note from someone in their class."
Bella identified a problem, and thought of a solution that would benefit everybody. Her actions show respect and empathy for people that may feel lonely on Valentines Day. Students can demonstrate SEL skills through their project choice, like Bella did, and in the messages they send to their PenPals. How will your students demonstrate their SEL skills? We’re excited to see students taking action to make our PenPal community even stronger!
Reading Rockstar: We’re looking for students that are advancing as readers and demonstrating reading comprehension skills. Summarizing, citing evidence, fact checking, making comparisons, and using vocabulary from the text are all ways that students can demonstrate reading comprehension skills.
Rachel from Illinois demonstrates several reading comprehension skills in one of her responses from Schools Around the World:
“Some schools offer breakfast in the morning as well as our school. Other schools travel by city buses while our schools take public transit. In some schools, classrooms include a lot of students. In other schools, classes are small and include few students. In Central America, students practice technology skills in a computer class. Specific schools get educated in gardens, school ground, and on boats! Our school, specifically, learn on a school ground (inside a school). Some schools begin the day with a morning prayer. Other schools begin the day with morning news and announcements. We do news and morning announcements but one day a year we have a moment of silence.”
In her response, Rachel uses vocabulary such as “transit”, compares and contrasts schools from around the world, summarizes information from the text, and reflects on her own school. Encourage your students to extend their thinking by using these reading response strategies as they complete the project. Who knows, maybe one of them will be our next Rockstar Reader!
We are so excited for PenPal-A-Palooza! Join a topic today and watch your students grow as they collaborate with peers from around the world. We cannot wait to recognize students with these awesome new awards! Stay tuned to learn about our first group of PenPal-A-Palooza All-Stars later this week!