Ready-to-Decorate Words Travel Postcards are a really good way to get students writing!
Social studies is one of the most exciting subjects to teach, but it is not one that gets a lot of focus due to the emphasis on reading and math in state mandated testing. However, that does not mean that you cannot make social studies fun and integrate it into language arts and math lessons. One of the easiest and most exciting ways to do that is to have a postcard exchange project.
What is it?
A postcard exchange is, at its name implies, an exchange of postcards from your class to another class across the country. If you are fortunate enough to have relatives and friends (or have students who have relatives or friends) in other states or countries, you can also exchange with them. The objective can be to get a postcard from all 50 states, from a dozen different countries, or whatever you would like it to be. The social studies lessons begin from there.
What to do when you get a postcard back?
When your class starts getting postcards back the fun really begins! Create a bulletin board with a map of the United States, Canada, or world (depending on your objective) in the center. Each time a postcard comes in, have students hang it around the edge of the board with a piece of yarn or string connecting it to the state/country it is from. Try to collect postcards from each region of the United States and discuss the similarities and differences between states. Students can also make inferences and do creative writing projects based on the pictures on the front of the postcards. For math, students can measure the distance from the school to the state capital or town from which each postcard came. They can also add facts about the state/country to a class geography book during language arts. The possibilities are endless for activities that will be relevant and fun for your students.
How can I find someone to exchange postcards with?
Start by contacting friends, family, and colleagues in different parts of the country. Did you go to school in a different state? Email your former professor and ask if she would send your class a postcard. Do you have a colleague that moved across country and now lives on the opposite coast? Ask her if she would send one too. You can also ask parents to have their friends and family from other states send postcards to the class, as well. Once word gets out that you need postcards, you may be surprised how many different states you can gather just by asking the people you know.
Have fun creating a unit that both you and your students will enjoy all year long!