Edmodo Penpals

A while ago, my students in one class said that they wished they could have pen pals in Russia. At that time, we had reconnected with a school in Yakutia because that school wanted us to do a contest with them. (That’s another story.) A while ago, we had set up a wiki page with some classes there, but I was discouraged by the fact that they were posting paragraphs about their region in laborious English, while we were posting the same in laborious Russian. Who was learning from this process? 

I admit: we were fascinated by the different pictures of their vacations and region, so there was some cultural benefit. However, the kids weren’t connecting directly.

I wrote to one of the teachers in the contest that I’d like to let our kids correspond on Edmodo, because I’ve been having some positive results with it. It took a while, but we got three of my classes on line, and she enrolled twelve or thirteen of her kids. I emphasized that, while I wanted kids to have a chance to write in their target languages, I wanted compelling reading input from both sides. The Russians were to write in Russian and the Americans in English. Here’s an example of what happened: Image

 

It’s fun to read the exchanges, and it’s especially great that some of the most unlikely kids are the ones going in on their own time to write. But the best part is that kids like to read what the others wrote. They come to class asking to read if they couldn’t understand, especially when something is written to them.

I asked my kids to upload part of a current project so that the Russians could make corrections. I probably won’t do that in exactly the same way again. As you can see from this exchange, the Russians are more interested in the content than the numerous mistakes (as they should be). Image

 

So now, I’ve posted a request that the Russian kids tell us what they’d go see if they were to visit St. Petersburg (our theme just now). Because one Russian asked what an American student’s cat looks like, the American put a picture of her cat into a google doc, and linked to that document from Edmodo. That gives me the idea to let kids post links to their written work and ask for comments. I think that will work a lot better than asking for comments directly on the Edmodo page. Also, I have just had the idea to ask each school to do a 24-hours-in-the-life-of project, so that kids could see normal activities from each hour in the other location. 

Another change that we’ll make next year is that I won’t put every class into the same “Yakutia” group. We have 55 Americans and 12 Russians in this class, making it hard for the Russians, especially, to keep up with the American notes. I’ll try to find teachers who can supply at least half the number of kids in their classes to connect with another class of similar size. Also, I’ll call the classes by the teachers’ names so that we can keep them straight.

If any of you have more suggestions to streamline and improve, I’d love to hear them!

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8 responses to “Edmodo Penpals

  1. I am very interested in hearing more about how this works for you. I´ve tried doing penpals both as traditionally mailed letters (took forever to receive them) and as emails (wasn´t much quicker, as the teacher had to collect letters and send them as attachments, so that all students would be sure to get letters).

    Your idea of little snippets on Edmodo that all can read is an interesting idea. I also wonder how to do this with classes of perhaps 30 students. Do all your students participate or is it just a voluntary extra activity?

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    • This time, I required everyone to write something about him/herself so that the Russian kids could find something in common. I also like the fact that my kids get to read typical introductions over and over! I might have one of my kids make a scavenger hunt for the others…something that they’d like to do to get them to re-read, but that’s not truly an authentic task!

      Once we started, everyone wanted to respond to those who responded to them.

      It might be that we’d have to divide classes in half later to match up right with Russian classes that are so much smaller. I’m going to try to figure this out a little better with the teacher…maybe offer credit for reading and responding off the clock.

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      • I like the simplicity of the task–write an introduction–rather than the full-blown letter we did, although that did give letter-writing experience. This could be used as a quick, focused task on the topic at hand (fears, meals, hobbies, etc.) and provide timely interactions while waiting for that long letter to arrive. I definitely plan to add this to my goals for next year. Spasiba!

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      • Remember that we’re writing in English so as to read in Russian. Your letter gives me the idea that my students can then “crib” constructions from the Russian students over time to write about themselves. They could have a google doc going that would add those topics as the Russians share about themselves.

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  2. Sherry Blizzard

    I like this idea. I’ve used Edmodo in the past and kids do love it. Did the students take the writing and use a translator to translate the text? I must have missed that part where they were able to translate and read what was written and did the translation come through fairly accurately?

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    • The American kids take Russian, and the Russian kids are taking English, so everyone can read what the others wrote. It’s amusing to watch the kids who do try to use translators to understand, since kid-talk doesn’t necessarily come out correctly on a translator.

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      • With our pen pals, I let each group write in both languages–one paragraph on an easy topic in the TL and one paragraph on a more complex topic in the native language. That way each group got to practice writing a little, but in a safe way, not beyond their ability, but the main goal was to provide comprehensible, interesting reading material for each other.

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      • I like that!

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