Friday, March 12, 2010

The Great American Mail Race

Last week I received a letter from Tami, a 14-year-old student from Butte Valley Middle School in Dorris, California. The letter was simply addressed to “Any 8th Grade English Teacher” and began by explaining that her class was participating in The Great American Mail Race.

After reading her letter and the accompanying note from her teacher, I wanted to learn more about this project. I was surprised to find an absence of an official website, but Google helped uncover the basic premise of the Mail Race. Students from around the country use the computer to find the address of a faraway school and then write to them sharing information about their personal interests, and their school and community. The class who receives this letter is encouraged to respond to it, and then find a new school to write to. The Great American Mail Race is like an educational version of a chain letter.

The problem with correspondence sites like e-Pals and services such as Skype is that the difficulty is in finding someone willing to participate. I love the idea that the Mail Race removes this barrier.

I’m planning on having my students participate in The Great American Mail Race. I’m going to randomly assign the state, but each student will be able to choose two different schools to write to. I figure this will double the odds of receiving a return letter. As a team, we’ll be mailing out over 200 letters – I’m interested to see the number of replies we get in return.

Guidelines for this project appear to be flexible and not really documented on any particular site. Some schools have students write friendly letters, others mail out formal surveys. It’s usually encouraged that the teacher mail a letter along with the student’s to help explain the project, but even this seems to be optional.

If you’re interested in participating in The Great American Mail Race, feel free to use my handouts as a model for how to approach it with students, and also how to formulate your own teacher letter.

The Great American Mail Race - Teacher Letter

The Great American Mail Race - Student Directions
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2 Responses:

Anonymous said...

I myself have been curious to find more information after two letters which have been sent to our school. I found your information the most valuable so far.

Thank you!
Montana, the Teacher from Nebraska :)

Darci said...

Thanks for the student handout - we are participating and I was looking for some ideas on letter contents