Postcards can be an excellent way of teaching children about places around the world, as there are so many different ways that they can be used. Before you try these activities, you will need a relatively large collection of postcards. So start collecting now – ask friends / family to buy some when they go on holiday, ask the children if they have any postcards at home, buy some which show your local area, join postcard exchange groups etc.
1) Matching the postcard to the place. Give the children a collection of postcards and ask them to find the places shown using an atlas, a map or a globe. This will improve the children’s knowledge of the location of places around the world. This could be tried in groups, and children could have competitions to see who can find the places in the quickest time (this would also improve the children’s use of an index if looking in an atlas).
2) Join Postcard Exchange groups. There are a number of postcard exchange groups on the internet who are very willing to swap postcards with you. Find them using the search engines, or post a message in the educational newsgroups asking if other classes would be willing to swap postcards. As the postcards arrive at your school, use these opportunities to show the children where they came from and perhaps teach them a little about the place. The children could even use information resources to find out some information for themselves (which they might then share with their fellow class members later).
3) Postcard Display. Make a large display showing the world and stick it to the wall (you could also use a pre-made large wall map if you do not have time to make one). Then, as you receive postcards, ask the children to stick them in the correct place on the display.
4) Journey of a Postcard. Give each child a postcard and ask them to find (on a map) where their school is and where the postcard came from. Then, they can describe the journey that the postcard made as it travelled to your classroom. This description could include lists of countries which the postcard might have travelled through / over, and famous places / features which can be found in each of those places.
5) Make a Postcard. When the children have a good understanding of what a postcard is, how it is set out and why it is used, they might be able to make their own. These postcards could show their school and class or other local places of interest (which might require visits outside of the school).
Indeed, this would be an ideal activity to try after a school visit. When on the visit, ask the children to look at some of the postcards which might be on sale (and possibly buy some to add to the class collection). Then, when they return, they can make their own postcards showing the place(s) that they have visited. If your class is a member of a postcard exchange group, why not ask your exchange partners if they would like to see some of the postcards that you have made?
Children can also make postcards when they have learnt about a particular country. Their postcard can include landmarks, animals native to that country, rivers etc.
You could also make postcards using a computer.
6) Make a Tourist Leaflet / GuideBook. If the children enjoy making postcards, why not get them to make a leaflet / guidebook telling people all about a particular place? They will need to have a collection of existing leaflets and books so that they can see the features of a text of this kind.
7) Electronic Postcards. Internet Postcards are now very popular, and they can also be used in the classroom. Once you have found a suitable site, children can fill in their details and send cards to their friends. Most of these cards also have sounds and animations, making them even more entertaining. Some of the postcard exchange groups also exchange electronic postcards, so if you receive one, you could print it and use it in the activities above.
8) Sites like Postcrossing allow you to exchange postcards with people from all around the world.
I have a teddy bear ‘travelling’ the world, and each week he ‘sends’ a postcard back to the class (I make these A4 size). As I teach a number of classes, one of the first questions they ask as they enter the room is, “Has Kuschell sent a postcard?” We track his journey on a world map and discuss the differences in places with our home in Australia. I am doing this with classes from grade 1 to 4, and they love it. The postcards build up to make a great display in the classroom too!