OAKVILLE, Mo. – First grade students at Rogers Elementary School have been focusing their lessons on writing skills, increasing their vocabulary, and strengthening their grammar over several months through writing to pen pals.

“They have really loved this project. This has given them a real purpose for their writing and given them a real opportunity to really put forth their writing,” Teacher Julia St. Louis said.

After exchanging several letters, students sat down to meet their new friends one-on-one.

“(I wrote about) the things that I like, like my family, writing,” first grader Lizzy Hopkins said.

On the other side of the pen pals were retired teachers. The initiative of the pen pal project aimed to give students the chance to build friendships and learn effective communication.

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Hopkins’ pen pal was retired teacher Brenda Szydlowski, who says meeting the first grader brought her back to her days of teaching.

“Meeting her here today was just wonderful,” Szydlowski said. “I forget about how wonderful it is to be with these kids.”

St. Louis says this project has helped students at Rogers Elementary to be invested in writing.

“I’ve seen that, especially once they got that first letter back, they were so much more excited to write their second letter. They were writing longer letters, like five, six pages long,” she said.

Students agreed they’ve enjoyed the experience.