It’s April, snail mail month, and time for Post Crossing! In fifth grade, I was to write a business letter to a state's chamber of commerce asking for specific materials. I wrote to the state of Kansas and got an inspiring package for my labors. I was enamored. Sadly, I was one of very few in the class that received anything. I’m not sure why. Maybe Kansas is just nice that way. It seems often that students’ mail seldom gets a response, and it becomes disheartening for both teacher and students. Therefore, when postcards started showing up in my co-teacher’s room this year I was again enamored! Come along as I interview Kris about how he uses Post Crossing in his classroom. It seems to me a great way to mix writing with art and cultural experiences.
What is Post Crossing and how does it work?
Post Crossing is an online community to connect people who want to send and receive postcards via snail mail. A person is given an address to send a postcard to. Once the recipient receives the post card, he registers it at postcrossing.com and the sender’s address is given to someone else so he receives a postcard. This makes so you are constantly receiving postcards from new people.
To get started you must first sign up at postcrossing.com. You list your address for others to send postcards to you. You also write a short bio about yourself and what kind of information you would be interested in. When you have finished signing up you can request your first address to send a post card to. After that person has registered it, a postcard will soon be coming your way. Once you have received and registered your first postcard, you can send out up to five postcards at once and really get them to come pouring in.
How did you learn about Post Crossing and what inspired you to use it?
My aunt used it in her school and it seemed to work well for her. I planned to have a world geography theme in my classroom so I thought getting postcards from around the world would fit well. I wanted it to open the world for my students.
What has the effect been with your students? Have they enjoyed it?
They like to see the new cards and will try to find the sender’s location on our world map on the wall. Some of my students would prefer writing postcards over other writing assignments, but of course some still need prodded to be creative. They’d only write hi and bye if I’d let them.
What type of postcard response do you and your students enjoy receiving the most?
You get all sorts of postcards and details. We have found the ones that included personal or local interests to be our favorites. For example, a sender from Japan wrote about unique water balloons they have at their festivals. He even offered to send us some, though, we haven’t received any yet. It’s always exciting to get postcards from new countries too.
Can you request to get postcards sent to you from specific countries?
Not really. You can make a recommendation, but it’s still no guarantee. We get most of our post cards from Europe or eastern Asia. Personally, I wish there would be a little more variation, such as from Africa or South America as well.
Has it worked out for the classroom as you hoped?
Yes, for the most part it has worked well. It took a little longer to get that first one through the mail than I had expected, and the students were always asking when we would get our first card. After we were in the swing of it though it worked well. When signing up, I included in the bio that we are a group of students and what we would like to know about their country. That has helped to bring in favorable content.
I use it somewhat as a spare time option. I require the students to make their own hand-drawn postcards and that gets us a lot of comments from the recipients. I leave it quite open for the students to write about whatever they like. I’ll guide them to talk about their hobbies, school life, the local area, or things they would like to hear about from other places. It has really helped the students to see that other places in the world have actual people with real lives.
If someone wanted to use Post Crossing in his classroom, what would you advise him to do?
You should definitely post a specific description of what you want to hear about. The more general your bio is the more general the postcards will be because the sender has nothing to go on.
Because it can take two to three months to get that first postcard through the mail, you could start it during the summer. This way by the time school starts you can have five addresses ready for your students to send to. We only have about thirty postcards so far and we probably would have around fifty by now if I had done that.
Does it cost anything or pose some possible privacy issues?
Post crossing is free. Since we make our own cards, we only need to buy card stock. The international stamps you need are about $1.50 each right now so that can add up but it’s not too bad. I think it’s pretty safe. You are of course giving your email address and physical address to postcrossing.com but your email is not given out and your physical address only goes to those who send you a postcard. I only listed my own address, not the school’s or the student’s.
Well Kris, thank-you for your time and for telling us about your project. It has been great to hear about and fascinating to look through the postcards you have received.
To our readers, thank-you for joining us here again. I hope this interview with Kris about Post Crossing has been inspiring to you and encouraging you to try something new with your students. I especially like the postcards from Russia right now. It helps us remember that there are normal people there with normal lives and interests.
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Keep writing, Andrew Yoder