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Electrifying English

Sending emails around the world is a fun way for pupils to pick up new skills and enhance existing ones. April Palmer reports.

Eight and nine-year-olds at Arthur Dye Primary School, in Cheltenham, were thrilled to receive more than 100 emails from across Europe in a pen-pal project set up by their teacher.

Sian Green wanted her class to discover the benefits of email, so she combined it with the topic of the UK and Europe. "The idea was that receiving emails would encourage the children to look for the places they had been sent from, making those locations more real for them," she says.

The project continued throughout the term. Each time the pupils received an email, they printed it out and used maps to discover where the writer had sent it from. They were learning to work with others, improving their ability to write for pleasure, gaining an awareness of geographic locations, and learning about other cultures and ICT.

More than 135 emails flooded in from 133 different places. "Most of the children got to reply to at least four or five emails," says Green.

As the project went on, she noticed an improvement in writing and keyboard skills, along with an increased eagerness to use ICT. "The pupils are generally more confident now with using computer software and if there are problems or unexpected windows pop up, they don't panic like they use to."

Receiving immediate feedback about their work gives pupils a sense of achievement. They are also able to connect with people of the same age in different countries and learn from the interaction. Such projects have to be well managed and focused on outcome, which is why computers can't yet replace teachers in the classroom.

Worldwide grapevine To start using email in the classroom:

* ask your local authority adviser how to apply for an ICT skills training course. This will help you to maximise the potential of ICT in your classroom and enable you to instruct pupils on proper "netiquette" and basic technology literacy.

* get in touch with schools around the world by visiting educational websites and posting messages describing the topics you are working on. The staffroom onThe TES website (www.tes.co.uk) might give you some ideas.

* regularly review pupil progress to ensure a successful email project.

* remember that ICT gives pupils a chance to explore the world from the classroom.

Advice on setting up e-palling projects www.epals.com www.mape.org.uk www.teaching.com www.think.com Information on internet safety in schools www.worldkids.net www.ictadvice.org.uksuppliers www.ngfl.gov.uk

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