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Teachers: Citizenship:

Last Updated: Thursday November 25 2010 15:40 GMT

Pen pals

Citizenship 11-14/KS3/Levels E&F
Globalisation - social implications


Students in Sierra Leone

Do students stereotype people from other parts of the world? If they do, having a pen pal could change their ideas.

Students try an online quiz, matching pictures to places, then look at a case study of pen pals from the UK and Sierra Leone.

Teachers can also find further information on twinning their school.

Learning aims

By the end of the lesson students should understand:

  • Where you live affects the way you view the world
  • Getting to know people as individuals breaks down stereotypes


Global stereotypes

Try this picture-based online quiz. Some of the answers challenge commonly held ideas about what places are like.

Ask the class:

  • Do we also generalise about people from other countries?
    Prompt: Yes. For example most of us have an idea of a stereotypical American tourist
  • What are the risks of holding these stereotypes?
    Prompt: They might start as fun but they can lead to xenophobia and racism.
  • How can pen pals and exchange visits change your views?
    Prompt: Getting to know people as individuals breaks down stereotypes.

Main activity: Kyle and Ibrahaim's story

This case study tells the story of pen pals Kyle and Ibrahaim. They've been writing to each other for three years, and have had the chance to meet up as their schools are twinned.


The letters and visits have changed their ideas about life in each other's countries. It's also a particularly good case study as both boys are blind and have first-hand experience of being on the wrong end of people's tendency to stereotype.

Read through the case studies, then try these activities.

1. Brainstorm the question: What can people learn from being pen pals? Make a class list of students' suggestions.

2. Stereotypes about you and your country: Draft a letter to an imaginary pen pal. In it you should identify five stereotypes people might hold about Britain, and the British people. For each stereotype tell your pen pal if you agree with it or not, and explain why.


Ask students:

  • Have stereotypes ever made life difficult for you?
    Prompt: Only three schoolkids allowed in a shop at one time etc
  • How did you feel when this happened?

Teachers' background

If you are looking to find a twin for your school or would like to know more about school twinning and international pen pals, click on the World Class link in the top right-hand, dark-blue box, or visit

For hundreds more news-based lessons, click on Teachers on the left-hand side.