Pen pals take edge off Hurricane Harvey hardships

By Ms. De'Andria Bogney
Fourth-Grade Teacher
The Varnett School East

“We may be down, but we’re definitely not out!”

This thought settled in my mind over the weeks of being out of school from Hurricane Harvey. This was definitely a disaster that couldn’t be avoided but we all know that life goes on. We were eventually going to have to return to school and address various emotions and unfortunate situations --  all while continuing the school year successfully.

With The Varnett School East being closed and out of commission for months, we became housemates with our friends at The Varnett School Northeast.  In the midst of our losses and adjustments, we were fortunate to have a fourth-grade student council, class, and teacher from Brent Elementary in Little Elm, Texas (near Dallas) adopt our classroom and send us an abundance of school supplies.

As a fourth-grade class, we were beyond grateful and definitely wanted to thank them for supporting us in our time of need. My first thought was to have us create a card to decorate, sign, and send to the school.

“We can get more personal than that!” I thought. Why not have them engage in a new writing experience and thank the students themselves? “Pen pals are the way to go!”

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I remember how much exhilaration I felt having a pen pal in school and wanted the same for my students. I emailed Brent’s fourth-grade teacher to pitch this idea and she was just as thrilled! She then took our rosters and paired each of our students with a pal.

Since Varnett East’s fourth grade received such wonderful gifts, we were the ones to initiate the first letter. The first letter contained introductions and fun facts each student wanted to share as well as thank yous!

Our students will definitely be able to learn and continuously practice the writing process through the letter-writing genre as well as make a new friend in a new place!

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