Getting to Know You

Student Introductions

As students are sending their introductory messages to each other encourage them to include a generous amount of detail in their messages. You want them to give their keypal a good idea of who they are, their interests, their hobbies, their personalities but you also must tell them not to send any personal information such as telephone number or street address on the Internet. You also want to find clever ways to bring your curriculum into the exchanges.

Math teachers might challenge their students to find creative ways to use math symbols or language. Here are some ideas:

  1. Students give their height and weight in their message along with an introduction.

    Several years ago one of my students was curious to discover who was taller, she or her keypal in Denmark. Her keypal gave her height in centimeters and my student had to covert to inches and feet to make the comparison. A student who did not enjoy converting from metric to customary measurement suddenly had a real life purpose for doing math!

  2. Encourage your students to tell how they usually spend their evenings when they get home from school.

    A sample might be: "I like to spend about half my evenings watching TV and listening to music. One quarter is spent doing homework and the other quarter is spent with my family at dinner and doing chores."

    In order to arrive at this data the students should make a chart and note how they spend their evenings for a week. They can then look at the data, categorize their activities and total the hours spent in each.

    This message topic is something that you and your partner teacher(s) can agree on ahead of time so that each class involved in the keypal exchanges can begin collecting this data before they send a message about how they spend their time after school.

  3. The students can play a little game as they tell when their birthday is.

    They cannot say the month or day as it is; they may only give clues. In other words, a student born on May 15th cannot say, "I was born on May 15th." She or he would say, I was born in the 5th month on the day that is 9 less than 2 dozen. For that same day one could say I was born on the 135th day of the year (non leap year). 15th could be expressed as the square root of 225.

    There are infinite ways of renaming the date in the month. Do an exercise with the students ahead of time and rename some of the numbers from 1-31. Even the number 1 can be expressed as "any number to the zero power equals this number."

It is important for the students in each keypal class to be aware of what is going on. They don't need to do all three of the above suggestions in one message. It is best to spread out the math activities among several messages. Your students might even begin to find their own ways to bring math into their keypal exchanges. Extra credit could be offered to the most creative. Paired keypals might have fun as their "team" tries to be the most creative. In addition to the math connections, be sure to give the students plenty of "space" to talk to their keypal about the things that are important to them.

Me in a Shoebox

Another fun way to start an exchange among kepals is the "Me in a Shoebox" writing activity. In this type of activity the students will identify items they could put in a shoebox that would be an indication of their personality or their favorite things. The items must be able to fit in a small box or shoebox. Suggest that your students also include in their shoebox one item that is native to their region.

Here is an example of a "shoebox" activity - Me in a Shoebox

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Patti Weeg
April 17, 2004