Letter Writing Tips

Please remember that it is necessary to implement and enforce guidelines for one simple reason: we want pen pals to have an equal and safe opportunity to communicate with their college buddies. Therefore, we use these certain standards to ensure that this process is efficient, secure, and fair for all participants. All letters should follow the format and content guidelines below.

My first letter:

1. The first letter you write will be general, such as "Dear Elementary School student". You can ask questions and talk about yourself. Be sure you know the classroom that you are writing to! (In case you forget any of this information, you can find it on the website at www.umich.edu/~smile)
2. After you receive your first letter, you will write to your own personal pen pal! (The teacher will pair you up with a specific little kid when they receive the letter you wrote)


1. Limit letters to one side of an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper. Please do NOT exceed one page or use odd-size stationery!
2. Print letters legibly (no cursive). 3. Sign the letter using only your first name and last initial.
4. Tri-fold your letters and write your pen pal's first name and last initial, the teacher's name, and the school's name on the outside.
5. Please do not place your letter in an envelope.


Please use your best judgment about what is appropriate. We proofread the letters, but things can be missed, and we don't want K-grams to negatively influence any little pen pal. If you can't think of anything to write about, contact your Swing Kid and brainstorm ideas with him/her!


1. Decorate your letter with markers, stickers, glitter, drawings, and much more!
2. Ask questions for your little kid to answer about pets, siblings, common interests, school, favorites, etc....
3. Answer any questions that your little kid asked
4. Be mindful of your language (i.e. check your spelling/grammar and do not use obscenities) and the reading/writing capabilities of your pen pal
5. Report to a Swing Kid immediately if your pen pal shares something personal that is cause for concern.


1. Give your full name, email address, phone number, or home address. This is very important!
2. Directly mention holidays, unless your pen pal mentions them to you first
3. Include intimate details of your life. Teachers have asked us not to mention anything about parents, deeper relationship issues, parties, etc.
4. Send personal gifts or pictures with your letter unless each little kid receives one from his/her pen pal (contact your swing kid if interested in this)

Letters are DUE on MONDAY night at 8pm in your hall community learning center/library. Be sure to place your letter in the box with your teacher's name on it!