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Prehistoric Pen Pals


  • Arts & Humanities
    --Language Arts
  • Science


  • 3-5

Brief Description

Students research dinosaurs, assume the personality of a specific dinosaur species, and write online “getting to know you” letters to other student-dinosaurs in the class. Students then swap letters and write replies.


Students will:

  • Read online information and identify relevant information about a particular dinosaur species.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the basic parts of a personal letter.


letter writing, online research, dinosaur

Materials Needed

  • Student access to the Internet.
  • Student access to a printer (each student will print two letters)

Lesson Plan

Prior to beginning this lesson, students should have an understanding of the parts of a friendly letter, basic navigation skills, and familiarity with the Internet.

Begin the lesson by asking, "What is a pen pal?" Brainstorm with students what a pen pal is, and the reasons for having a pen pal. Ask what they might want to learn about a pen pal. Cover such topics as where they live, who lives with them, what they like to eat, and what they look like.

Explain to students that they are going to write letters to their very own pen pals, except....their pen pals will be dinosaurs and they will be writing the letters as if they are dinosaurs too.

Provide students with the following instructions:

  • Open the Internet and go to All About Dinosaurs.
    Note: Before beginning the lesson, you might want to bookmark the site in each computer's Web browser or save a shortcut to it on students' desktops.
  • Choose from the List of Dinos a dinosaur to research. (Or you can assign a dinosaur from the list to each student.)
  • Click the icon for that dinosaur, read the information about it, and write the answers to the following questions:
    • What kind of dinosaur is it?
    • What did it look like?
    • Where did it live?
    • When did it live (the period)?
    • What did it eat?
    • Did it like being around other dinosaurs or did it prefer to be alone?
    • How would you describe the dinosaur's personality: shy, angry, athletic, nervous, friendly?
  • Carefully reread your notes. In order to pretend to be that dinosaur as you write a letter to another dinosaur in class, you need to know as much as possible about it.

Use the List of Dinos to assign to each student a dinosaur pen pal. Have students write down the name of their assigned pen pal at the bottom of their notes. Then have students go to the Letter Generator (again, you might bookmark the site or save it to as a shortcut) and write their letter. Provide them with the following instructions:

  • In the Type Your Name Here area, type the dinosaur's name (not your own).
    You now can show on a projector the parts of a letter or you can have students read the information on their own computers.
  • Click Write Your Own Letter and choose Friendly letter.
  • In the address blanks, instead of typing your actual street address, city, state, and zip, type the location where your dinosaur lived. Instead of typing today's date, type the period (Cretaceous, for example) the dinosaur lived in. Click Next.
  • On the salutation page, type the name of your dinosaur pen pal.
  • In the body of the letter, introduce yourself and share some details about your dinosaur self (food, habitat, personality). Then ask your pen pal dinosaur 5-7 questions about itself. Be sure the questions fit your dinosaur self's personality and behavior. For example, if you eat plants, you might want to ask if your pen pal eats meat and if it does, how fast it can run!
  • Click Next, and add a closing and a postscript if you like.
  • Choose a border that fits your dinosaur self's personality. (A more aggressive dinosaur might not want a balloon border, for example!)
  • Print your letter, sign it, and then trade letters with the dinosaur student assigned to you.
  • Read the letter; then use the Letter Generator tool again to write a reply. Print the reply and give it to your dinosaur pen pal.

If time permits, invite students to share their letters with the class. All letters should be turned in as daily work.


Students will be assessed on their

  • Ability to navigate the Internet.
  • Ability to identify relevant information on a Web site, based on their written notes and fictional letters.

Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Lorrie Jackson

National Standards


NL-ENG.K-12.3 Evaluation Strategies
NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.7 Evaluating Data
NL-ENG.K-12.8 Developing Research Skills

GRADES 2 - 4
NS.5-8.1 Science as Inquiry