Letter from America

Every Sunday morning when I was little I listened to Alistair Cooke’s “Letter from America”. It was a radio programme that fascinated me.

The day before the wedding of my daughter Laura in 2009 I hadn’t got a speech written down but Neil and his best man Ian had. The morning of the wedding day I found a quiet spot by the pool, we were in Cyprus, and tried to write. I couldn’t come up with anything inspiring and started to get a bit worried.

Teaching at the time in Y1, glitter, sticky things, felt tips and paper were quite a regular feature of class activities so………I found a shop that sold that kind of stuff and in the speech (that like my assemblies that are a bit random) included a task which involved the guests writing a message to Laura and Neil with fancy, colourful writing and putting their words into a sealed envelope that could be opened there and then or as a memory keepsake. It seemed to work.

Fast forward to 2013 and an invitation to do a breakout session at Naace 2014. The invitation arrived a long time before the event and like most things it was a case of, “I’ve got lots of time to sort that out……..”

March 28th came rather too quickly and the week before was a frantic mix of preparing for Parents’ Evening (Thursday night) and Presentation ideas.

Well the ideas of letters came back into my mind. The original plan was to ask the delegates to write a letter about their likes and dislikes of using technology in the classroom.

Well on Thursday morning, I hadn’t properly planned my day’s activities in school so a thought (from somewhere) came into my head. And it was this. I collected posh paper, felt tips, sparkly sticky things and asked my Y3 class to each write a letter to the “Naace People.” who I would be talking to the following day. They did this, and worked very hard (well most of them!) and popped their letters into sealed envelopes. I didn’t really see what they had written……..

Once Parents’ Evening had finished (about 8.30pm on Thursday night) I went home, finished my presentation slides and got all of the posh paper, envelopes, felt tips and sticky sparkly things ready for the next day.

I left Maghull for Nottingham at about 6.00 am and arrived in Nottingham on time. I met a few of my friends and got ready for the breakout session. Well, to be honest, I thought at best there would be about a dozen or so people turning up. Mind you I was at Anfield on Tuesday night and had received a Twitter message from @LordLangley73 saying something like, “looking forward to your presentation….no pressure.”

I had 28 letters from Y3 to give out and as the room filled I gave out all the letters, asked them to be opened and explained the reason behind the letters and then gave everyone attending paper, felt tips, envelopes and sticky sparkly things and asked them to reply to the letter they had received. There were more people than letters…..which was a bit scary……including James Langley and his mates all sat on the front row.

I guess the idea was to involve children using technology in schools to take part in a conversation with people who have some influence with the technology that pupils use in schools. The letters the children wrote were great and the letters that were sent back were just as good. I don’t know how many of my class had previously received a letter but they were really excited when they opened them the following Monday morning.

I collected some of the letters that had been written in reply:IMG_2899 IMG_2898 IMG_2897 IMG_2896 IMG_2895 IMG_2894

IMG_2892 IMG_2891 IMG_2890 IMG_2889

There were more, lots more and it really was a conversation that involved the little people from Green Park’s Y3 and the big people from Naace.  In the end I kind of enjoyed the session and had some lovely chats with people at the end. It was a good day and strangely in a place with people discussing technology in education it was old fashioned, hand written letters that had an effect.

A month ago I delivered a Scratch training course in Sunderland. The week before we started using Scratch in Y3. Guess what? Y3 wrote letters to “The Scratch People” and the Scratch People wrote back! I’ve got them somewhere, carefully put away for this blog. post. I’ll find them tomorrow.

If you can make sense of the slides…….here is the presentation from that day (and I manage to get a mention for LFC!:

Alistair Cooke always seemed to talk about something other than his title until he go to the end of his 15 minute “Letter to America”.








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4 Responses to Letter from America

  1. Such a simple yet brilliant idea! 🙂 Loved your presentation at Naace Conference and reading (and responding to) the letter from your pupil. Keep up the good work. Look forward to catching up again soon.

  2. James Langley says:

    It was a brilliant presentation and everybody LOVED the letters. I still have mine at home. How cruel of me to wind you up on Twitter. 😉 It was great to meet you in real life at the conference. Keep up the brilliant work. 10/10 🙂

  3. Kelly Dotty says:

    What a great blog post. I am a huge advocate for keeping #snailmail alive on my personal blog and seeing other teachers who are similar is so wonderful to see. I have used letter writing in a recent topic but it was to a Fairy King so now I need to work on a real audience!

  4. Amanda Bennett says:

    Really enjoyed reading your post & Y3 certainly liked getting the replies, there was great excitement when I handed the out – a lovely idea!

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