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Lesson Plan

Mail Time! An Integrated Postcard and Geography Study

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Mail Time! An Integrated Postcard and Geography Study

Grades K – 2
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Six 30-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Devon Hamner

Devon Hamner

Grand Island, Nebraska


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One: Introducing the Project

Session Two: Setting Up the Project

Session Three: Writing and Mailing Letters

Session Four: Sharing Daily Mail

Session Five: Tallying Results

Session Six: Sharing Findings


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will:

  • develop and use emerging language skills in writing postcards and letters to family members.

  • develop and apply emerging reading skills to read the received postcards.

  • demonstrate an awareness of maps and their uses to locate the places from which the postcards are sent.

  • hone their math skills while constructing and updating graphs as the postcards are received, sorted, and tallied.

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Session One: Introducing the Project

  1. Read and discuss a book such as Dear Annie by Judith Caseley, the story of a young girl and her correspondence with her grandfather.
    This book provides a timeline of Annie’s life as she and her grandpa exchange letters and cards. When she was a baby, Grandpa did all the writing, but soon Annie is able to draw him pictures, dictate letters to him, and finally write him letters all by herself. When Annie starts school she takes all 86 letters and cards from Grandpa to school to share for “Show and Tell.” At the end of the story, her classmates want to have pen pals too, and they create a big display of their letters and cards.
  2. While this book does a good job of introducing the concept of writing to family members and showing how that writing changes from pictures to words as we grow as writers, other books could be used to provide this same purpose.

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Session Two: Setting Up the Project

  1. Invite your students to have penpals too by writing to their family members and friends, asking them to send picture postcards of the places where they live.

  2. Send home the letter to send home to family inviting them to participate in the project. These notes should be translated into the parents’ home languages. The parents are asked to send stamped and addressed envelopes to school so the students can write to these relatives. If the children are more advanced in writing, they can help to write their own letters using the Letter Generator. This student interactive teaches students the parts of a letter as it walks them through writing either a friendly or business letter.

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Session Three: Writing and Mailing Letters

  1. When the children bring their stamped and addressed envelopes to school, have them draw and write their letters on the back of the letter to mail to family and friends. You might want to recruit your own friends and family members to participate in the project for any child who doesn’t bring envelopes to school. Or, you could see if your local Parent/Teacher Association could help with the funding on materials.

  2. Mail the letters (This could include a field trip to the post office!) and wait for the postcards to start arriving. You will need to explain to the students that it may take several weeks for the replies to start coming in.

  3. While you are waiting for those postcards and letters to arrive, the children can write other friendly letters and postcards to send to friends, family, or even the President. Students can use the Letter Generator and Postcard Creator to practice their writing in authentic ways.

  4. You might also share the information from Postal Pack for Elementary Educators that explains the process that a letter goes through from the time that that the sender drops it off at the post office until it arrives at the recipient’s mailbox (see page 10). There are other resources in the collection that you can share with students as you wait for the replies to arrive.

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Session Four: Sharing Daily Mail

  1. Allow time for each student to share his/her postcards with the class as they arrive. If a child sends out letters and doesn’t receive any back, you may want to ask the child’s parents to send them a card or recruit a neighbor to send them one, so that they too receive mail.

  2. Post the cards on the bulletin board display and attach colored strings from the postcard to the correct map showing the places from which they came. You might want to have books available to learn more about the locales shown on the postcards, or plan trips to the library or computer lab to learn more about those places.

  3. Make a graph to record the variety of places from which you receive cards. Keep a tally of how many cards you have received and update it as more cards arrive. Your graph might keep track of the cards from your town, your state, each other state represented, and countries other than the United States. In addition, you can keep a running total of the number of postcards and letters the class receives.

  4. Use Websites such as the National Geographic's Xpeditions Atlas and the Fact Monster Atlas to find out more information about the places the cards came from, using questions such as the following to inspire discussion.

    • What continents are represented?

    • What countries are represented?

    • What are the flags like from the other countries, and how is their flag like and unlike our United States flag?

    • What information can you find about those other countries?

    • What states are represented?

    • What does their state flag look like?

    • What towns are represented?

    • How far away are they from your town?

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Session Five: Tallying Results

  1. When you are ready to take the display down, spend several days sorting the postcards, using questions such as the following to guide your card sorting and exploration:

    • How many relatives and friends live in the your town?

    • How many of the postcards show the following pictures: deserts? lakes? mountains? national parks? animals or birds? famous buildings? state flags?

    • Encourage the students to come up with other ways to sort the cards.

    • Compare and contrast sizes of the various groupings. Which sets have more? Which have less? Are any sets equal?

    • What places would you most want to visit? Why?

    • Which ones do you want to learn more about?
  2. If desired, make graphs of the new information learned from the sorting. You can make a class book of the graphs and information learned from sorting the cards.

  3. Students often get very interested in some of the pictures on the front of the postcards, whether that is sports teams, animals, museums, etc. Encourage students to do further research on their areas of interest.

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Session Six: Sharing Findings

  1. After all of the postcards have been sorted, tallied and graphed, ask students to write an additional letter or postcard to the families and friends who participated in the project. In this letter, the students can convey the final information from this project—the number of postcards and letters that were received, the number of states where the postcards came from, the number of days it took for the mail to arrive, and so forth. This letter is also a place for students to thank people for participating. If the students are not able to write independently, the teacher can write the results in a class letter and the students can recreate the class graph on the back.

  2. At the end of the project, you can make a class book of the postcards or you can let each child keep the cards addressed to them.

  3. Have a class reflection time to discuss the project asking students what their favorite things were about the project as well as what they learned about letters, maps, and the postal system.

  4. Encourage the students to share what they learned about the following parts of the project:

    • Writing letters

    • Reading the messages from their postcards

    • Using maps

    • Using graphs to record information they learned

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  • Use the interactive Postcard Creator to discuss the parts of postcards and create the text for students’ own postcards. Students can then illustrate the front of the cards using markers or other art supplies.

  • Some students may choose to continue this penpal relationship, much as Annie did in the book by Judith Caseley, or they may start an e-mail exchange with their relatives.

  • Your class might extend the letter writing exchange project by finding keypals in other classrooms around the country. The Electronic PenPals or KeyPals sheet includes sites that help teachers find classes to exchange messages with by e-mail.

  • You may wish to extend this activity by teaching the K-2 lesson plan, Note Writing in the Primary Classroom, in which students write notes to each other and to themselves, foregrounding everyday writing communication.

  • Students can get additional writing practice using the PBS resource Arthur's Letters To...

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  • During this project, the teacher will do a lot of kidwatching to assess:

    • the participation and interest levels of the students

    • their language skills developed and used when writing letters to family members

    • their reading skills developed and used as they read the postcards from their families

    • their awareness of maps and their uses as they located the places from which the postcards are sent

    • their math skills in making and updating graphs as the postcards were received, tallied, and sorted

  • The teacher can also encourage students to assess themselves on these same items as they reflect (during the class reflection time—Step 6 in the Instruction and Activities) on what they learned during the course of the project. These reflections could be recorded on a chart tablet so that students can look back at their list to see how many things they have learned from the project.

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