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Personalized Pen Pals

Subject Area: Language Arts

Grade Level(s): 6

Duration of Activity: 2-3 weeks, 50-minute class periods

Description of Activity:

The lesson is a culminating activity for a unit on friendly letter writing. The primary focus is on letter writing, but the lesson will be extended into creating and personalizing the letterhead using computer software and using the Internet to e-mail pen pals. The students will be assigned a safe e-mail address and instructed how to use the e-mail account. A digital camera or scanner will be used to create digital photographs of the students, and word-processing software will be used for the student’s, name, address, e-mail address, and decorative purposes. A template of the graphic work will be made, and students will be taught how to reuse this template file. This lesson can be adapted to teaching personalized business letters done in a more formal format. Designing resumes could also extend from this lesson.

Objectives: The students will

  • design letterhead for a friendly letter using Microsoft WordArt, drawing tools, and digital images to develop the design.
  • write a friendly letter using correct form.
  • proofread and correct friendly letter using correct sentence structure, paragraph form, and spelling.
  • insert the picture into a Microsoft Word document from a floppy disk.
  • make a template of the letterhead for repeated use.
  • send a friendly letter as an attachment through e-mail.


Prerequisites (skills or background needed):

  • Students need to have a basic knowledge of how to use word-processing software.
  • Students need parental permission to use the Internet.
  • Students need to be familiar with writing a friendly letter and addressing an envelope.
  • Students need to have a basic understanding of how to navigate the World Wide Web.
  • Students need to be able to write in complete sentences.
  • Students need to be able to write in complete paragraphs.


Teacher Component: The teacher will

  1. review appropriate friendly letter format using online lesson plan for friendly letters. Writing Letters Unit: Friendly Letters http://volweb.utk.edu/Schools/bedford/harrisms/fletters.htm
  2. demonstrate Microsoft WordArt and other graphic design avenues for letterheads. Examples: clip art, borders, drawing, auto-drawing, inserting pictures.
  3. demonstrate the technique for inserting pictures from a floppy disk into a Microsoft Word document.
  4. demonstrate the technique for transferring a photograph to letterhead from file by modeling.
  5. establish safe Web-based e-mail accounts for students using a service such as Gaggle http://gaggle.net
  6. use the digital camera to take pictures of the class members.
  7. establish pen pals for students with other classes locally, nationally, or internationally. The following sites provide information about other schools and teachers who want to set up an e-mail exchange with other teachers and students:

    e-PALS Classroom Exchange

    Intercultural E-mail Classroom Connections

  8. research writing e-mail messages by reading the following:

  9. demonstrate how to send an attachment.

Student Activities: The student will

  1. bring a photograph of himself/herself to scan or use the digital camera to photograph each other.
  2. search through Microsoft WordArt to design his/her name.
  3. determine placement of letterhead and font and copy size of address and e-mail address.
  4. save design as a template. Handout 1: How to Create…Use and Edit a Template File / ../howto/excel_template.pdf
  5. write a rough draft of a friendly letter
  6. proofread each other’s work with peer partners
  7. edit and rewrite making necessary changes.
  8. type friendly letter on the personalized stationery in Microsoft Word.
  9. check for typing errors and correct.
  10. send the friendly letter as an e-mail attachment to another student’s e-mail account as assigned by teacher, or print out the friendly letter and land mail in an envelope.


  • Trained peer students can help with technology.
  • A template is provided for students who need an example for letterhead. Handout 3: Template for Letterhead
  • If parents do not give permission for photograph to be sent through e-mail, the students may use clip art in place of photograph. Clip art can be found under the drawing section of the tool bar.

Extension Activities:

  • Students could be challenged to see how many states and/or countries around the world they can receive e-mail from. This would need to be set up so that the student actually e-mailed the person sending the message from the other state or country and requested a reply. The persons contacted should be someone the student knows or someone in their families knows. Students should be cautioned not to let this become a chain letter because classes who began such projects in the past have been overwhelmed with e-mail messages. Students could request that the person sending the-mail message attach a digital picture of the area in which they live. The pictures could be combined in a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation that could be presented to other classes.


  • Social Studies
  • Technology


  1. Teacher observation- of students using the computer. Make sure that they can save their files to the diskettes, can crop their photographs correctly, and can manipulate the font style and size. Also check to see that they are able to maneuver their art and photo to the desired location on the letterhead.
  2. Handout 4: Evaluation Plan for Letters downloaded from


Curriculum Frameworks


Sixth Grade

  1. Demonstrate continuous progress toward control of penmanship, grammar, mechanics, sentence structure, and usage of standard English in the context of writing and speaking. (R, W, S, L, V)
    1. Demonstrate knowledge of grammar and usage, including, but not limited to, parts of speech, all punctuation marks, capitalization, verb tense, subject-verb agreement, subordination, pronoun reference, participle and gerund phrases, and basic sentence elements.
    2. Interact with increasing competency using standard English when writing and speaking in a variety of situations.
    3. Apply correct grammar in speaking, writing, and reading.
    4. Apply correct usage in speaking, writing, and editing/proofreading.
    5. Use correct sentence structure in speaking, writing, and editing/proofreading
    6. Increase proficiency in penmanship.

National Educational Technology Standards (NETS):

  1. Collaborate with peers, experts, and others using telecommunications and collaborative tools to investigate curriculum-related problems, issues, and information, and to develop solutions or products for audiences inside and outside the classroom. (4,5)
  2. Select and use appropriate tools and technology resources to accomplish a variety of tasks and solve problems. (5,6)


07 Sentence Structure (Level 11-21/22)
Demonstrate an understanding of conventions for writing complete and effective sentences, including treatment of subject and verb, punctuation, and capitalization.

Demonstrate an understanding of conciseness and clarity of meaning in combining two sentences.

09 Editing Skills (Level 11-21/22)
Identify the appropriate use of capitalization, punctuation, nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs in existing text

Demonstrate knowledge of writing conventions and sentence structure through identifying and correcting errors in existing text and in text written by the student.

Link and Feedback to Author(s):

Cindy Neely, Central School, West Point, MS

Handout 1: Template Files
Handout 2:Using Yahoo! Mail
Handout 3: Template for Letterhead Word Acrobat
Handout 4: Evaluation Plan for Letters
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