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Learning with Letter Writing

June 23, 2021

It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has left people feeling lonely and disconnected. Lockdowns and quarantine measures around the world have made interaction more difficult than it used to be, and students and teachers alike are feeling the lack of personal human contact. What’s more, it's easy to become burnt out after an entire day of relying on video calls for school or work. With so many people longing for connection, snail mail has seen a major resurgence!

What Is Snail Mail?

“Snail mail” is the modern nickname for the practice of writing letters by hand, something that people have been doing since writing itself was invented. This nickname for letter writing comes from the idea that traditional mail is slow, like a snail! And it's true. If you want to get into letter writing, one thing you'll need is patience, especially if you're writing to people in other countries. But when you recieve a really great letter, it's worth the wait!

Snail Mail for Students (Or Teachers!)

Language teachers have been setting up pen pal relationships for their classes for years. It’s the ultimate learning tool because it allows students to practice their reading and writing skills while also letting them explore topics that interest them and make friends at the same time. 

Ironically, if you search for the hashtags #snailmailrevolution or #penpalswanted on social media, you’ll be able to connect with plenty of other people who wish to step back into the age of written letters. Facebook also has a variety of groups dedicated to this purpose. Writing letters to a pen pal can be a great way for students (and teachers!) to fill the void of social interaction, especially if they are shy, lack confidence in their oral communication skills, or have social anxiety. Creative students can also enjoy the optional tasks of decorating their letters and envelopes.


If you’re thinking of finding pen pals for your students, ESL Library has a number of resources in our Writing in English section, including How to Write a Note and How to Write an Email, which could easily be translated to the handwritten equivalent. We also have a resource on How to Format an Envelope. Also, if you like the idea of having your students write letters but don’t want them to have to commit to a lengthy relationship, there are organizations like From Me to You, which distributes donated letters to patients in cancer wards in the UK with the purpose of bringing the patients cheerful distractions. 

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Comments (2)

Nora L.(Teacher)

I'm going to try the pen pals, even though we are back in my class this Summer for Adult ESL.

Reply to Comment

Tara Benwell(Author)

Great! Let us know how it goes.

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