Gingerbread Exchange 2014

It's the holiday season,  which means its a time for family, friends, and most importantly giving. 
This holiday season, thanks to Pawsitively Teaching, my class was able to give away a total of 46 unique and original gingerbread men and women to other young boys and girls as part of the
 2014 Gingerbread Man Exchange. 

I have to say that participating in this exchange was a wonderful experience. It brought back many childhood memories of when I used to send letters to pen pals across the country and parts of the world. I'll never forget that exhilarating feeling of wondering what my pen pal would think of the package I sent and anxiously awaiting their response. Even to this day, as an adult, receiving "real" mail still tickles my heart. I am thankful that through this exchange I am able to provide my students with the opportunity to feel that same excitement.

Well, you might be wondering exactly how the Gingerbread Man Exchange works... In the case you are, I'm going to give you a brief explanation. First, interested teachers in grades K-4 had to email Pawsitively Teaching to let her know we would like to be part of the exchange. Then, she created a spreadsheet of different groups of teachers that would exchange the gingerbread men. There were 5 groups of 16 teachers, totaling 80 teachers! That's an impressive number of participants! Once we learned which group we were in, our classes were required to create and decorate 15 gingerbreads to mail out to the other 15 schools in our group. Each gingerbread was to be sent with a brief letter from our class telling about our school and the area we live in, etc. Finally, our gingerbreads had to be mailed out by December 2nd to ensure each would arrive on time before the Winter Break and voila that's how this magical experience worked! 

 Now, I am departmentalized in my school, meaning I teach 2 reading and language arts classes, so I was lucky enough to participate in two different groups. Together, we mailed out 46 gingerbreads! Yes, I know that math doesn't add up with the 15 per group that need to be mailed out, but with the host's permission, I had each of my students make a gingerbread to mail out instead of only making 15. I have 24 students in my homeroom and 22 students in my afternoon class and that's how we got 46. I tried to mail them out fairly by looking at the class sizes of the schools. I ended up sending 2 gingerbread men to teachers with a large class size and the required 1 to classes with a smaller number of students. 

Ok, enough about the logistics... 
I'm sure you're eager to see the gingerbreads already, so here you go... Enjoy!

Here are my homeroom class's gingerbreads:

These are my afternoon class's gingerbreads:

Here's a closer look at some of the gingerbread boys/girls:

 Aren't they adorable? I was so impressed with the students creativity and personalized touches that I decided to have students write a descriptive narrative about their gingerbreads that we could include in our packages.

Here are some pictures of the planning and final product:

Once we were ready to put together our packages, I asked students to decorate the addressed envelope that would contain their gingerbread with fun and festive images.

I projected an example of how to decorate the envelopes on the board to give students an idea of what to do
Here are some pictures of the students hard at work decorating the envelopes:

Once all of the envelopes were decorated it was time to assemble our packages. Each package contained our class letter, 1 or 2 gingerbreads, and a descriptive narrative introducing the gingerbreads.

Here are all of our gingerbreads ready to be sent to their new homes:

Even more exciting than sending our gingerbreads was receiving gingerbreads from around the country in the mail. Every day was a new adventure to see if we received a letter and if so to learn where each gingerbread came from and what their city/state/school was like.

At first, our "Gingerbread Man Exchange" bulletin board began with just a few letters that magically arrived with our classroom elf "Elfie". 

It wasn't long before our bulletin board was covered with a multitude of fun and creative gingerbreads from across the United States. Check out our web of new friends. 

I would like to give a very special thanks to Pawsitively Teaching for organizing this collaborative exchange! The students had a fantastic time using their knowledge of friendly letters to write for a real audience and using their creativity to create, decorate, and describe their gingerbreads. Aside from the academic benefits of this exchange, I have to say that my favorite aspect of this activity is that it helped make students more culturally aware of communities outside of their own. 

I can't wait to participate in it again next year and see what new teachers and students we can connect with!

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