Barack Obama Elementary students learn about VCU

Pen Pals Pairs event features scavenger hunt, bingo

A student from Barack Obama Elementary School at the Fall 2019 Pen Pal Pairs event at Oliver Hall.
A Barack Obama student enjoys El Deafo Bingo.

Fifteen fifth-grade students from Barack Obama Elementary School in Richmond recently met their VCU School of Education pen pals for the first time as part of professor Lisa Cipolletti’s Children’s Literature service learning course.

The undergraduate course is required as part of the school’s Master of Teaching program. It is designed to give students a greater appreciation of children's literature while providing them with an opportunity to make an impact in the Richmond community.

As part of the course, SOE students begin corresponding with an assigned “writing partner” from Obama Elementary at the beginning of each semester. The most recent correspondence began in September. Partners met in person on December 6.

That day, group activities included a tour of the University Student Commons and James Branch Cabell Library, where students participated in a scavenger hunt by checking off items on a list as they toured the two locations.

After visiting the Cary Street Gym, the pen pals returned to Oliver Hall for a snack and a game of El Deafo Bingo, based on a children’s book they had all read. The book – “El Deafo” by Cece Bell – is a memoir by Bell in graphic novel format about a girl who experiences hearing loss at an early age. Pen pals matched answers on bingo cards to a series of questions about the book.

“The VCU students and fifth graders read Cece Bell’s memoir this semester, and incorporating a fun game related to the book allowed the pen pal pairs to work together to respond to questions about the text,” said Cipolletti.

“We continue to explore new ways to give our master’s and elementary school students a greater appreciation of children’s literature.”

Link to Flickr Album

Group activities for School of Education and Obama Elementary students included a tour of the University Student Commons.

Group activities for School of Education students and Barack Obama fifth-graders included a tour of the University Student Commons.