East Hills & McCallums Hill Public Schools

A record of the development and delivery of a new cultural exchange program from the diary of ESL Teacher, Alison Lane, McCallums Hill Public School.

May 2007

The organising of my anticipated cultural exchange program between East Hills Public School and McCallums Hill Public School began. After gaining approval from both my Principals, Jon Godwin and Michelle Jacobs, and discussion with Cultural Exchange Project Officer, Julie Ross, the project was ready to start.

I began by taking photos of all of the children. These photos would be attached to the first letter exchange between the schools. I also matched each child to a child from the other school. The children became very excited about the project when they were given the actual name of their pen pal! I then bought folders for all of the children for each of them to have a special place to store their letters and drawings to each other.

We were then ready to write the very first exchange letters. I didn’t anticipate the time actually needed for Year 1 and Year 2 children to write a draft letter, conference with the teachers then write up the final letter! This time factor will be even more of an issue when the first letters are exchanged as the children have asked specific questions of their pen pal.

June 2007

The children were so excited to receive first exchange letter. They had anticipated its arrival for a couple of weeks as the writing and editing of the first letter had taken longer than the hour session we had allocated.  East Hills were the first to send their letters as the class is made up of both Year 1 and Year 2 children. A number of Year 2 children needed little assistance with their writing draft and minimal conferencing time with the teachers. This gave the classroom teacher and me more time to spend with the children who did need assistance with content and structure.

The McCallums Hill children were so excited when we handed out their individual folders with a letter inside from their pen pal. They loved having a small photo of their pen pal attached to the letter and eagerly showed the people around them what their pen pal looked like. We then selected a few letters to read to the class as a whole. We gave the children the opening structure for their return letter and read each individual’s letter to them so they could respond to the questions they were asked. We tried to encourage the children to write at least a few sentences. Children who finished early drew pictures for their pen pal. One little boy whose pen pal was a girl, asked specifically for a pink piece of paper and drew a picture of himself and his pen pal holding hands. We were already on our way to achieving our aims!

East Hills children were just as excited to receive their first letter back! As it was a mixed grade class, we were able to pair a Year 1 child with a Year 2 child to read and share each others letters. There was certainly an advantage having more capable Year 2 children involved!  Within this hour session nearly all children completed a return letter.

Now the initial “get to know you” letters have been exchanged, I will steer the children’s letter writing into including other KLAs. Both classes have excursions relating to their H.S.I.E. programs in the next few weeks. I will encourage the children to include a small report on their excursion as well as their personal questions to their pen pal.

July 2007

The children from both schools continued to exchange letters in the latter part of July. We found there was a need to give the children an opening sentence already printed on their letter to their pen pal, as they were spending too much time just getting started.

Plans are now underway for an exchange visit by East Hills Class 1/2R to McCallums Hill 1K. We are planning for the children from East Hills to attend a community language class with their pen pal from McCallums Hill and then work on a combined art/craft project, followed by a multicultural lunch. We anticipate this visit occurring before the end of Term 3.

August 2007

We spent most of our time this month in preparation for the East Hills cultural exchange visit. We planned activities and McCallums Hill children created multicultural art works to be displayed in the classroom and given as a gift to their East Hills pen pal. The message, as reflected on the poster in both symbols and words, is “All Together Now”.

We also designed a “passport” for each child with the input from the McCallums Hill children. This passport will be used for purposes such as identification of the child’s pen pal and the community language class they will be attending.

September 2007

On September 11, 1/ 2R from East Hills Public School finally met their pen pals from McCallums Hill. East Hills children were greeted by a huge “Welcome 1/2R “ sign and were quickly united with their pen pals through a “getting to know you” game. Each child received an individualised passport that listed their pen pal’s name and the community language they would be visiting. When they located their pen pal, (who were wearing name labels), they received a sticker on their passport.

After recess, the children went with their pen pal to either a Greek, Arabic or Chinese lesson. The children learnt numbers, played games and even learnt a few cultural dances. They then returned to the classroom for a multicultural lunch. 1/2 R brought lollies to share. Before leaving, 1K presented each of their pen pals with a painting reflecting the nature of the cultural exchange visit – ”All Together Now”.

East Hills children finished the term with a thank you letter to their pen pals which expressed how much they enjoyed their visit to McCallums Hill. Both classes now look forward to a reciprocal exchange visit in Term 4.