North Plainfield Students Stay Connected As Pen Pals

North Plainfield Student Pen Pals 

Recently, North Plainfield teachers found a unique way to promote their student’s writing skills and provide an avenue for increased student contact while navigating the obstacles of remote learning. 

With Covid forcing students to to remain more distant than ever before, language arts teachers Meagan McFadden and Allison Conelisse, of East End Elementary School, and Middle School English teacher, Jennifer Mariani, set out to plan an activity that would bring students from both schools together as Pen Pals.

“We love to celebrate our students’ writing pieces and are always trying to come up with creative celebration ideas at the end of each unit.   To get our fourth graders motivated about our opinion writing unit, Mrs Cornelisse and I decided to reach out to middle school English teacher, Ms Mariani to coordinate pen pals”, stated McFadden.  

Research has shown that incorporating pen pals during writing instruction provides students the opportunity to engage in authentic reading and writing, improve writing skills, and build positive relationships with their peers. 

“Our fourth graders initially sent a letter to their middle school buddy introducing themself and asking a few questions.  They were beyond excited to receive a personalized letter back a week later”, added Cornelisse. 

Both classes exchanged letters for three weeks and then were finally able to “meet” over the Zoom platform on February 18th.

The students worked hard perfecting their persuasive letter throughout the unit.  Once completed, they were eager to read their completed writing piece to their buddy in a breakout room. The middle schoolers gave their fourth grade pen pal compliments after listening to their letter.  

“My middle school students loved helping the younger students with their writing pieces. The skills they learned as “editors” will only enhance their own writing abilities”, said Mariani. 

The teachers couldn’t decide who enjoyed the celebration more! Students were happy to share their thoughts:

Jalene Torres remarked, ““It was very exciting because we haven’t been able to see many people (because of covid).  They were really really nice.”  

 “I was very excited because we sent letters to our pen pals and then we got to actually meet them!”, exclaimed Nichloas Alvenus.

Kirolos Abraham added,  “I liked how there was a debate after Nicholas read his persuasive letter.  Not everyone had the same opinion as him!”

“We’re really proud of our students. This is a great way to build connections throughout our district and let our middle school students assume a leadership role. We are thankful to Ms. Mariani, Ms. McFadden, and Mrs. Cornelisse for putting this program together”, said Robert Lake, Middle School assistant principal. 

East End principal John Ferguson added, “Having Pen Pals is a great way for students to stay connected and practice their writing skills in a fun and collaborative way. I know the students appreciate these connections and establishing new friendships.”

Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Michelle Aquino remarked, “I commend the coordination of the Pen Pals.  These learning experiences help develop student confidence, as well as leadership skills while learning content.  It was so impactful to see the smiles on our students’ faces as they engaged in this learning experience.”  

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