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Penny Vick

© 2001

Action Research

Keypals E-Mail Dialogue Journal. 4th Grade Students. and a Parent/Mentor

Introduction As a teaching professional, my school district has greatly encouraged me to use technology to enhance my students' learning in the classroom. A large referendum in Edina was passed three years ago that enabled our schools to make a great deal of progress in the area of integrating technology regularly into our lessons. Because of this referendum, our schools have more computers and training. Three years ago I had just one computer in my classroom and a computer lab that was often booked. Now I have 5 or possibly 6 classroom computers fully equipped and 2 computer labs with one lab fully updated and hooked up to the Internet. Our hanging classroom monitor is connected to one of the computers for instructional guidance. This has made a big difference in how I use technology and computers. They become a station to which one fourth of my students can rotate. Projects started as a class using the busy lab can be easily finished in a short period of time with a station of 6 computers.

In my personal life, I have discovered that my time writing, the content of my writing, and the pleasure I take in writing has been enhanced by the use of e-mail and the chance of a response from a friendly audience. Much of my motivation to write has come from that hoped for response. I confess that at times, I relax my writing style and ignore some of the rules of punctuation, yet I have written and enjoyed writing more then ever before in my life. With two college children schooling in California and other friends and family out of town, I thoroughly enjoy communicating with them using e-mail.

From personal experience and support from my research, I have reason to think that establishing e-mail accounts for my fourth-grade students and their parents or other significant adult will also encourage them to write, improve their keyboarding skills, communicate daily activities with family, and build better relationships. With a responsive adult keypal, a student's writing is likely to improve and be more pleasurable.

1. Students will use their e-mail account in the classroom once a week to communicate with their parent or other significant adult creating an electronic dialogue journal, copies of which will be kept in a "Keypal Folder" and later bound.

2. Students will keep track of the time they spend on the computer, the number of words they write, as well as their attitude or feelings about their dialogue journal and writing. This simple log will be kept in their Keypal Folder.

3. By viewing random samples of student's correspondence, the teacher will assess each student's writing using a simple rubrics at the beginning of the Keypal Project and about 10 weeks into the writing project, and then again in the spring of the school year.

Classroom Plan
1. The Edina Schools Technology Department has been contacted to set up e-mail accounts for my students. Our district uses the website for student e-mail accounts.

2. The five or six computers in my classroom will be ready to go by October 2001.

3. Parents will be notified by letter and at open house. They will be asked to supply their or another significant adult's e-mail address for this Keypal Project.

4. Each adult keypal will be given guidelines for responding to their student's e-mail and any additional training needed to make this e-mail dialogue journal successful.

5. Training will be given to students through our technology support staff and their classroom teacher. A "Do" and "Don't" list will be generated through a class discussion so as to allow more ownership in our keypal guidelines.

6. Students will be assigned to spend about 20 to 30 minutes one day a week completing their keypal correspondence. That computes to 5 students each day for each class of 25.

7. Students will keep a "Keypal Folder" with a simple daily log of their work.

8. When their keypal reply is read on their next assigned time at the computer, the student will make a hard copy of it before starting his/her next message.

9. The teacher will keep a writing assessment rubric that will monitor the e-mail dialogue journal at the beginning, middle, and end of the year.

Annotated Bibliography
Bagley, Carole and Barbara Hunter. "Global Telecommunications Projects: Reading and Writing with the World." U.S.; Minnesota. 1995-00-00.
This paper explores the benefits of a sixth grade telecommunications project that involved students writing for an audience using "electronic pen pals." The improvement of the skills included the development of literacy skills, personal and interpersonal skills, and development of global awareness.

Berrill, Deborah P. and Molly Gall. Pen Pal Programs in Primary Classrooms. Pembroke Publishers. 2000.
The chapter entitled "E-Mail Keypals-The Practicalities" described setting up a keypal pilot with a list of recommendations. The concluding thoughts evaluated many positives and negatives of implementing keypals in a classroom. The rest of the book of the book suggested many good ideas about preparing the older writers, organizing a penpal program, using letters to assess language arts, fostering a community of readers and writers.

Britsch, Susan J. "E-mail Dialogues with Third-Grade Writers: Redefining the Curricular-Interpersonal Balance."U.S.; Indiana. 2000-04-00.
This paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association New Orleans, LA in April, 2000. It is about a 2-year research project in which 6 third-grade children corresponded with the researcher and 5 graduate students weekly through the school year. Logs and tables were kept to follow the student's development as writers.

Schuster, Kelli Ann. "Dialogue Journals: Building Relationships and Developing Fluency." MWP Select Summer Institute Demonstration. 2001.
Dialogue Journals build relationships and encourage fluent writing when a consistent dialogue with the "teacher" models good writing. A responsive audience motivates students to write. The teacher guidelines for responding to students can be applied to parent and child keypals using e-mail for dialogue journals.

Newman, Judith M. "Online: From Far Away." Language Arts 66.7. Nov. 1989: 791-7. This article presents several examples of how electronic mail can be use to enhance communication between teachers and students as well as between students. It supports the powerful impact that having a responsive audience has on student writing.


Creative Writing

Open the Door

Open the door
It lets in the light
It feels just right

Open the door
You hold it for me?
You let everyone see

Open the door
The dangers you'll chase
The way is quite safe

Open the door
It's certainly clear
It's nothing to fear

Open the door
I'm having a ball
I hope for a call

Open the door
At ease I feel
At home -- so real

Open the door
Daily things count
Big things to mount

Open the door
To the heart's special place
To a rhythm, not a race

Open the door
Let the Sonshine in
Let eternal life win


Ol' Time Courtin'

What's happened to ol' time courtin' I say?

I dare not think that it's gone by the way!

A young man approaches and asks for a date.

A young woman accepts and considers her fate.

He comes with a smile, neatly dressed to the door.

She greets with her eyes, all a glow even more.

He enters her home and to the parents does speak.

He shares the evening plans and he takes a seat.

There's a respectful exchange of certain expectations.

This lays a foundation for future relations.

As they leave her home the door he does open.

She feels very special yet not a word he has spoken.

By the end of this delightful date they do find,

This evening has been very much of one mind.

He may ask for a gentle kiss or hug this night.

She may or may not respond yet--it's all right.

Within a day or two he gives her a call.

A bit anxious to risk a sincere love "fall".

What's happened to ol' time courtin' I say?

I dare not think that it's gone by the way!