8.AB: Travelling Around the World on the Wings of Stamps
During my summer holiday, I wondered how I might add some special experience to my teaching. Finally, I decided to join my eighth graders in a remarkable project called Postcrossing. I chose this class because there are only nine learners, so it wasn’t too complicated to put into practice. This project is based on swapping written postcards with people from foreign countries where all communication is conducted in English. (For more information, you can check the official web page https://www.postcrossing.com/)
At the beginning of the year, I presented this idea to my students, and I eagerly awaited their reactions. But these were less enthusiastic than I hoped, and I considered dropping the idea. Nevertheless, I gave my students some time to think about the idea and then led the second discussion about it, which made them a little bit more interested. We registered as 8.AB. Students and learners filled in their shared profile and preferences for cards. The next step was a thrilling one! They drew five profiles and their addresses. Of course, they were expecting very unusual and exotic destinations. They got some very traditional ones like Russia, Germany and China and two that are not so common, Taiwan and Spain. They were a little bit bored by the European countries and sad that they didn’t get the USA (because all teenagers are obsessed with the USA for some reason). On the other hand, they had no idea where Taiwan was, so this project definitely helps them with their geography as well. In the next lesson, they made a pair and got one random profile and address. I gave them a bunch of postcards and many stamps, stickers and decorations. On their postcards, they mostly wrote about themselves and their hobbies, and they decorated the cards brightly. I took them to a post office, and then the unpleasant time of waiting began.
After a short time, the first postcard (the one to Germany) was registered, followed by the Spanish and Chinese ones. We are still waiting for messages from Russia and Taiwan. Now we are waiting to receive our first postcard from a foreign postcrosser!
During our current round of Postcrossing, I have kept asking the students for their opinions. I have recorded these and written up some ideas and attitudes.
T: What did you expect from the project?
N: Not much at the beginning. It sounded a bit boring and I wasn’t very interested.
T: Has your attitude changed?
N: Yes, it has I was really curious when we drew out the addresses. They were good, although I was hoping I would get the USA.
T: Which person would you prefer to write to?
N: I don’t mind the country. I would just prefer someone young. Maybe the Taiwanese girl.
T: Postcards are a little bit old school. Have you ever sent a postcard?
P: Ha-ha, yes. But only when I was younger, from a summer camp. Modern ways are better.
T: OK, but is there anything that you like about the cards?
P: Well, yes. That you have the message in physical form and can keep it forever.
T: And why do you prefer modern ways?
P: They’re fast. I don’t like waiting for a postcard or letter. It takes too much time.
T: But isn’t that the magical thing about snail-mail? The curiosity?
P: Not for me. But I like this project, in fact.
T: Did you enjoy preparing and writing the postcards?
L: It was fun. I enjoyed choosing the stamps and stickers and writing the text. We even wrote to the girl our Facebook names.
T: Would you like to continue with this project? Or even to have a pen pal?
L: Yes, I’m looking forward to getting the cards. It could be fun to have a pen friend from a foreign country. We could swap presents. Like sweets or something…
T: That sounds like a good idea. Which country would you prefer to swap with?
L: Somewhere English-speaking. Probably America, or Germany, because we learn German.
T: How much did you enjoy writing the letter?
S: Very much! I was so enthusiastic about it! I decorated the card with my own drawings.
T: What did you write about?
S: About my dreams and myself. And that I went to Spain last year. And countries I would like to visit one day.
T: Which are…?
T: Would you like to continue sending postcards?
S: Of course! I can’t wait to get our cards. And to send the next ones.
I definitely want to continue with this project with my learners. They always ask me about their cards and it seems they have started to enjoy it more and more.