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Published on October 10, 2007

Author: Gabir

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“I learned that there’s a state called Victoria and he has six blue tongued lizards!”:  “I learned that there’s a state called Victoria and he has six blue tongued lizards!” Internet Pen Pal Programs and Students’ Written Language Development International Reading Association Conference Toronto, May 2007 Nancy Charron, EdD charronn@chelmsford.k12.ma.us charronn@fpc.edu Australian ‘friends’:  Australian ‘friends’ Technology Use:  Technology Use 90% of school-aged children use computers (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2002) Internet usage doubles every 100 days (Samovar & Porter, 2001) Internet access in schools grew from 35% in 1994 to 95% in 1999 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2000) Setting up an Internet Pen Pal Program:  Setting up an Internet Pen Pal Program Websites to aid teachers in finding another class interested in conducting an Internet pen pal program. Intercultural E-mail Classroom Connections www.iecc.org ePALS website www.epals.com Gaggle website www.gaggle.net ePALS website:  ePALS website Teacher posts a paragraph explaining program needs Grade level Class size Geographical location Teacher waits to hear from other classes interested in an Internet pen pal program Teacher may also examine other postings and contact the teacher in that posting. Important Considerations:  Important Considerations Ensure class is committed to consistent correspondence Ensure classroom teacher has both adequate computer access and computer knowledge Specific writing times need to be agreed upon prior to program implementation Questions to Consider:  Questions to Consider Should the correspondence be every week, every other week, or once a month? When are school vacations scheduled? What time of year would be best to communicate with students from this country? Does my school district have confidentiality issues? Should students write using ONLY their first name or a pseudonym. Different options for conducting the program:  Different options for conducting the program Have students hand write their letters first, edit them (teacher or peer edit), and then keyboard them on the computer Write letters directly on the computer Folder Options:  Folder Options Some teachers find it easier to have students use a teacher account or folder rather than individual student accounts on the pen pal websites. All letters are placed in a teacher account and can be monitored for content before being emailed to the other participating pen pal teacher’s account as attachments. Program Procedure:  Program Procedure Return emails are printed and given to students for their response Teachers then email the responses to the participating teacher’s accounts How does an Internet Pen Pal Program Benefit Students’ Written Language Development?:  How does an Internet Pen Pal Program Benefit Students’ Written Language Development? Study Purpose:  Study Purpose Four classroom teachers, five general education students from each classroom, nine second language learners, and fourteen special needs students were interviewed before, during, and after participating in an Internet pen pal program in order to determine their view of student written language development and students’ attitudes towards writing. Study Length:  Study Length Four months long Population:  Population 13,000 students 12 elementary schools 3 middle schools 2 high schools 25% free or reduced lunch 15% received Title One services 4% Asian 11% Hispanic 3% Black 82% White 50% of teachers – Bachelors Degree 50% of teachers – Masters Degree Approximately 82 students participated in the study Analysis:  Analysis Teacher and Student Interviews Aspects Warranting Further Discussion:  Aspects Warranting Further Discussion Communication Cultural Learning Authentic Audience Problem Solving Motivation/Engagement Language Arts Curriculum Communication:  Communication From Falicia on March 16 Dear Ale, I have brown hair. And I have brown eyes. Do you have early relese? If you don’t this is what it means you get to get out of school early. Ale, don’t feel bad. I might be moving this summer and I do not know where. And I think we do have things in common too. To bad I don’t have blue eyes. How many states did you write to because we wrote to jus your state so far. It is so cool that we can write back and forth. We had a snow day and the snow day was on Wednesday. Do you know how to make a root beer flote? If you don’t know how, I will tell you how to. You need root beer. You need vanilla ice cream too. Put the ice cream in a glass and pour rootbeer in the glass. And that’s how you make a root beer float. From your pen pal, Falicia Communication:  Communication Dear Julie and Rebecca, If you want to make an animal cell, heres what you’ll need. Jello (any kind) hot water Cold water 1 cup A bowl spoon Orange jelly beans Take 1 cup of hot water. Put it in the bowl. Take 1 cup of cold water. Put it in the bowl. Put the jello in. Mix it with the spoon. Put the jello in the bag. Put half of the orange in the bag. Put the jelly beans in the bag. Put it in the freezer for 3 hours. Finally, you eat it. YUM How good! If you want to make a flower, here’s what you’ll need. We did this for Mother’s Day. Pots any kind of flower seeds Soil paint Paint the pot. Put soil in the pot. Then take the seeds out and put them ..oh and don’t forget the holes. Then put them in the holes and then you put a little bit of water in and put them outside. I’m done guys…………bye. Sharlein Communication:  Communication From Gage on March 16 Dear Greg, Hi it’s Gage writing again. How are you doing? I’m doing OK. Hey one kid in my class said that you have a track and a football field. What else do you have because we do not have any of that stuff at our school. Is your school big? Do you have a lot of homework? Over the weekend I’ve got stiches. It hurt really bad. Stiches is like getting your skin sewed together. To numb it they had to put a needle through my cut three times. I was at the hospital for about two hours. They had to x ray my elbow it hurts really bad. On Tuesday I had to go back to the hospital and I got x rays of my chest three times. I have to go. From you pen pal, Gage Communication:  Communication From Brenda on April 3, 2004 Dear Yasmeen, Do you have time out rooms at your school? Today is April Fool’s Day. We celebrate April Fool’s Day. It is on April 1st. Do you celebrate it? Do you study maps in Australia. We are doing one about New Hampshire’s counties. Do you have a behavior chart in your class? Do you have math class or reading class or spelling class? I went to all 50 states except Alaska and Hawaii. I am going to lots of places in the summer. How old is your mom or dad? My mom is 47 years old. My dad is 58 years old. Do you go on field trips? We are going on a field trip with our gym teacher. Do you have any friends at your school? We are studying weather. A rain gauge is an instrument that measures precipitation. A weather vane is a device placed on the ground or roof to show which way the wind blows. A barometer is an instrument that measures changes in air pressure and shows how the weather is going to change. What did you have dinner last night? What did you have for lunch? Do you have a friend? Do you do science, social studies? Do you have another pen pal? Do you know what granite is? Do you have a park at your school? We have a park at our school. We are doing a fund raiser to make money for our playground. Your pen pal, Brenda Communication:  Communication From Kyle T. on May 7, 2004 Dear Shannen, What is the weather like there? The weather here has been pretty warm. Most days have gotten up to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. I go out in shorts, sandals, and a shirt. My mom says it is okay. Now that the snow has melted, I’ve been able to go out riding my bike and skateboarding. I usually go with my friends. I’ve been going to the Boys and Girls Club more. When I go there, I get to go swimming and play basketball. I also like to play four square. Sometimes they play games that I have never heard of. Good bye. From, Kyle T. PS I had a good vacation. Communication:  Communication 4th grade special needs students, 2nd language learners, and general education students all reported communication as a strength of the Internet Pen Pal Program. Communicative function motivated students to write by setting a purpose for their writing. Continued motivation was noted as students received and responded to their pen pals’ letters. Communication:  Communication Students benefit when district-wide and school curriculums integrate authentic writing with their other written language curriculum. Observation: Students are unmotivated to write due to decontextualized and isolated meaningless writing tasks being the core of written language curriculums and instructional practices. Cultural Learnings:  Cultural Learnings Cultural Learnings:  Cultural Learnings 26\3\07 Dear Bookworm friend, Katie, Hi! My name is Sarah. I am in grade 6 and I am 11. I am turning 12 on the 24th of May. I live in Victoria which is in the south east of Australia. I live in Melbourne, which is in the south east of Victoria. Anyway I have seen many koalas, on the news and in the zoo. There are heaps of bushfires in our country. They are caused by the hot weather. All of the koalas are dying. We get LOADS of homework every two weeks! My favorite animals are kangaroos, koalas and dogs. At home I have 4 fish, 3 rabbits, 2 birds and 1 dog! My house reminds me of a zoo. At the moment it is really hot in Australia. We are in the middle of a huge drought, which means that there is nearly no water left. But in winter it can get very cold and it can even snow! It is very rare for us here in Melbourne to get snow. Do you get a lot of snow? I am also a total bookworm! I haven’t heard of many of those books, but I have read some of the Narnia books and I have read Ella Enchanted. Maybe the other books are American? My favorite authors are Roald Dahl and Paul Jennings. Have you heard of these authors? I also love to dance, sing and draw. My favorite sports are soccer, gymnastics and Cheerleading. I am in level 7 in Australia, which is level 3 in America! What is your favorite sport? What animals do you see around your area? I see lizards, heaps of birds and the occasional snake! My favorite series of books are the Un- books. It may seem a bit weird but the books are called Unseen, Unbelievable etc. Get the picture. Have you heard of these books? Please reply soon and tell me about your country. Is it hot? Are you in a drought? Do you see any native animals? What is your favorite animal? What is your favorite restaurant? Write to you later, Your Key pal, Sarah. Cultural Learnings:  Cultural Learnings From Josh on April 3, 2004 Dear Marissa, Do you like to draw? Does Australia have dir bikes and four wheelers? If they do have dirt bikes and four wheelers can people ride them on the desert? Does Australia have crocodiles? Does Australia have bmx bikes? Does Australia have skateboard parks? Do you like to go biking? How hot is it there in the summer? Your pen pal, Josh Communication:  Communication Dear Kathy 26/3/07 G`day, my name is Abby. I am a girl I live about an hour away from Melbourne, and know I don’t live in the outback or the country. We all kind of live in the suburbs. Did you know that we’re in the middle of a very harsh drought and are in stage 3 water restrictions. I live in a big blue house that is one story high. I have just turned 11 years old on the 7th of March and I’m in grade 6. I have a veerryyyyy annoying little sister called Kelly and she is 7 turning 8 and 15 cousins on my dad’s side and 2 on my mum’s side. Do you have any siblings? Do you have a mum and dad? I do. My favourite animal is a horse and I used to have one called Mickey and at the moment I have a dog called Fang.He is a Malamute cross Husky. What is your favourite animal? One time at school a kangaroo went into the playground. Do you have any pets? My favourite colour is green. What is your favourite colour? If I had a gazillion dollars I’d go on a trip around the world three times and I’d donate the rest to charity. No I have never been to the U.S.A but I would love to. I play netball. My hero is politician/environmentalist/lead singer of midnight oil, Peter Garrett because what he’s done for the environment is amazing. The kids in my grade call me a hippie because I told someone to leave a spider alone. Cultural Learnings:  Cultural Learnings When I’m older I want to be a lawyer or a horse breeder because I like to stand up for what I believe in and I love horses. My favourite subject is writing. I love to write. What is your favourite subject? My mum was born in Adelaide in South Australia, and dad was born in Box Hill here in Victoria. Are you a different nationality? I’m not, I am pure Aussie. Next year I am off to secondary college. What are you off to next? In Australia the types of schools are crèche (kindergarten), primary, secondary and university. My favourite book is called,”Asking for trouble” by Mary K Pershal.It’s about a girl called Melanie who’s turning 15 and her mum has M.S. Melanie is also remembering about when her dad left her one day at crèche. What’s yours? My mum has M.S which means Multiple Sclerosis. I’m very excited to be your pen pal Kathy Hope you like being mine! From your new friend Abby Cultural Learnings:  Cultural Learnings 26/7/07 Dear Brianna, Hi, my name is Caroline, but you can call me Carol. I am 12 years old and I live Melbourne, Victoria which is in the southern part of Australia.One of my favorite things to do is dancing. I do athletics and I’m starting baseball. In Australia we don’t really have science lessons but we sort of do in a way. When you do science do you pour things into test tubes and other stuff? My favorite subject is sport. My favorite book is “Charlottes web” ,it a great book, you should read it sometime. At Christmas time does it always snow in the USA? Like in many sports you have American football, we have AFL (Australian football league). It is sort of like your football, but instead of scoring a try you kick a goal between two goal posts standing side by side. Back to your questions- my favorite animal is the Dingo. It is like a dog and a wolf. My favorite holiday would be going to Malaysia.It’s very hot in Malaysia but in a Australia it can be hot or cold. My favorite candy would be licorice too Your new friend, Carol Cultural Learnings:  Cultural Learnings From Dylan on April 3 Dear John, I heard that you are going on vacation for a couple of weeks. What are you planning to do? We have been learning about the different states in the United States. Did you know New Hampshire’s state bird is the purple finch(not really purple)? The state tree is the White Birch. The state nickname is the Granite State. Does Australia have country bird, tree, or nickname? I like to pull pranks on people and tomorrow is April Fool’s Day. It’s where people pull pranks on each other. Do you know about the war in Iraq? There are thousands of soldiers from America that are fighting for freedom in Iraq. My teacher said that there are also Australian soldiers fighting too. My entire class made Christmas cards (around Christmas time) for the soldiers. One soldier sent a post card from some of the soldiers. The card said, “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. They said that they are going to send pictures too. Every week we have a raffle. My teacher puts out things to win. At the end of the month we have a special raffle. My teacher puts out bigger things to win. Does your school have fund raisers? Well there is a fundraiser going on right now at my school. We can win organizers, games, cell phones, Mirco racing car, and a calculator. You can also get a camera, walkie-talkie, TV, trampoline, CD player, and money. My school is doing this for new playground equipment. See ya, Dylan Cultural Learnings:  Cultural Learnings March 28,2007. Dear Penpal, HELLO!!! My name is Michael. I recently read your letter and I loved it, I live in Victoria in Melbourne. I am 11, turning 12 and I am in grade 6. I have many friends, but, my 2 best friends are Joel and Elf (Matthew- we call him Elf because he is short).We 3 are a team and we are very funny and like to pull pranks! In March last year, me and my family went to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia and at Flinders Ranges there are lots of things on top of the mountains. I took a ride up in a plane. It was amazing. Me and my family love to travel! Let’s see now…. I shall start answering your questions. Yes I do have a pet, a dog. It is a golden retriever and it is a big dog with golden fur. You say your favourite hobby is air soft gun target shooting but I don’t really know what that is.Can you explain it? I think I might know is it…is it when targets like Frisbees are thrown up in the air and you have to try and shoot them with a air gun???. My favourite hobby is playing tennis. I have been playing tennis for about 3 - 4 years. We do many things in school from spelling to maths to English but my favourite subject is computers. I love using a computer I am a VERY fast typer. I love to write letters. We do have homework- it is dreadful… the temp in Australia is about 26 degrees celcius? Well it varies form about 20 to 40 degrees Celsius. I would like to ask some questions myself actually, what is your favourite TV show? I like the Simpson’s because it is very funny like me. Ok, one last question, do you have a fear of anything? I have a fear of spiders aarrghh! There so scary! Hope to hear from you. Your penpal Michael Cultural Learnings:  Cultural Learnings Dear Jessica, 26/3/07 Hi! My name is Chiara and I am in grade six and turning twelve this year. I live on the outskirts of Melbourne. What school do you go to? I wouldn’t mind going to America and I have never left Australia, but I have been to Melbourne, (because I live there) Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania. I have been to Tasmania about ten times because my Mum lives there. How many siblings are there in your family? In Melbourne I have a family of five, Step Mum, Dad, two sisters (one younger nine years old and one older 14 years old) and me. In Tasmania I have my Mum, a younger brother, 6 years old and a younger sister who turned 5 today!! No it isn’t always warm over here, but it has been this year and we are going through a drought at the moment. I can’t really name all of the animals because there are too many!! But my favourite animals are monkeys, dogs and cats. I have 1 cat, I dog and birds. Do you have any pets? You can’t get Koalas as a pet. Yes there are monkeys in Australia-in zoos. Can you have monkeys as pets? My favourite sports are soccer and footy. What are yours? My birthday is October the 5th when's yours? My favourite colours are pink, yellow, blue, green and purple. Write back soon. From your Penpal, Chiara. Cultural Learnings:  Cultural Learnings Hi Susan, My name is Susan too! I am 11 years old and in grade 6. I love Australia! There is no other place that I would rather live in (no offence). I am a girl. I wanted to write to you because you have the same name as me. We don’t say “good day mate”. We say G’day mate. I have 2 pets. Both of them are cats. Their names are Sammy and Shiraz. I love them to bits!! I like animals but I don’t love them to bits. So much that I would own 20 cats/dogs. I have great fun in Australia. I live in Victoria, Melbourne. Up in Queensland we have 5 theme parks that we can go to. But to get there we would have to travel by plane. The theme parks are; Movie world, Dream world, Wet and wild, Sea world and white water world. In Australia we don’t call our candy “candy”. We call it lollies. I love lollies. Some of my favourite foods are chicken, Ice cream, chocolate, lollies, roast potato and plenty more. We are now in a drought. We have been in a drought for 9 years. We have to take shorter showers and some of our gardens are dying. I live opposite a national park. The national park is my front yard. So hardly any of my garden is dying!! We have just recently had our cross country (a long distance race). I came 15th. I am into sport but I’m not a very good runner. I don’t know much about America but I hope that I can learn more through my letters to you. My favourite colour is Aqua (green and blue mixed together). I like to swim. I just went to the 12th Fina world championships last night. May I say Leisel Jones is my idol. I hope to become a famous swimmer just like her someday. Last night 3 world records were broken and they were all by the U.S.A!! Leisel Jones also broke the championship record. I hope that you do consider traveling to Australia one day. We have some great landmarks. For example Ayres Rock, The Gold Coast, and plenty more. I would like to travel to the U.S one day too! Now I will ask you some questions. Have you ever met anyone famous before? What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you do on the weekends/holidays? Do you have any pets? Is it fun in America? What is your school like? When is your birthday? We’ll catch you later, Hope to hear from you soon!! Your pen pal Susan Cultural Learning:  Cultural Learning Teachers, special needs students, 2nd language learners, and general education students reported learning about the Australian culture, language, and animals. Students learned about the differences in the seasons of the year as well as time zone differences. Students learned about Australian students’ activities and traditions. We are presently living in a global society.:  We are presently living in a global society. “…technology-supported individuals are expected to work and communicate across several different work communities” (Milulecky, 2000, p.379) “People may see the world differently, in part, because of their interactions within one cultural group rather than another” (Au, 2002, p.393).:  “People may see the world differently, in part, because of their interactions within one cultural group rather than another” (Au, 2002, p.393). Cultural Learning:  Cultural Learning The Internet Pen Pal Program is a way to increase cultural understandings utilizing an authentic writing activity. The Internet Pen Pal Program supplements social studies curriculums increasing cultural awareness while simultaneously promoting interdisciplinary instruction. Reading, writing, and cultural learning occur simultaneously. Authentic Audience:  Authentic Audience Dear Adam, Hi! My name is Kevin, but my nickname is “elf”.Why you ask well because I am really small. I am only about 134cm tall and I am the smallest in grade 6. Well you now know that I’m in grade 6 and I am 11years old. I live in Melbourne and it is in the near the bottom of Australia. I am a very sporty person and I LOVE to skate and play my Guitar. My favorite holidays are my birthday, Easter, Christmas. It is really hot In Australia, but, some times it’s really cold! My favorite food is pasta and Shepard’s Pie YUM! Yes there are restaurants in Australia like La Porchetta, Eating House, Food Star and Malaysian Gardens. These are all very good restaurants and I would advise you if you ever get the chance to come to Australia to go to these restaurants because they are delicious! And one other “thing I do not like reading I absolutely hate it! Its sooo…………. Boring. Now for me to ask the questions: Do you have any pets? I have 2 dogs and 120 fish! I know what your thinking I’m crazy! Do you have any older or younger brothers or sisters? I have 1 brother and no sisters. Do you like sport or music? I like sport not really music. And last but not least “the last question” If you have the internet what games do you play? From your pen pal Kevin Hope to see you soon! 29/3/07 Authentic Audience:  Authentic Audience From Katie on May 8, 2004 Dear Georgina, I liked the way you started your last letter. Today it is very sunny but this morning it was foggy. I used to have a fish and a hamster. I forgot my fish’s name, but my hamsters name was Buddy. I play hockey. Right now I am in a spring league. Spring league is a league where you bring a group of people and make hockey teams. So far my team has been winning. I play hockey with my friend Ricky. My favorite food is chips and onion dip. Onion dip doesn’t really taste like onions. It is a powder that you put in sour cream. I like to eat Lays original or wavy chips. Have you ever had any kind of chips and any kind of dip? Just to let you know, I will write more if I can answer questions. Your pen pal, Katie Bye Authentic Audience:  Authentic Audience Dear Anthony, 26/3/07 Hi, my name is Connor. I am in grade 6 and I’m 12 years old. No I haven’t stepped on a cactus before and I’m not planning to. I live on the outskirts of Melbourne. Australia is hot, usually everyday about 28-36 degrees. But in winter it is very cold. No I have never been on a plane before. On TV my favorite shows are Wrestling, The Simpsons and Family Guy. Have you ever heard of them before? Yes we have had snow before and I sometimes go swimming only on a hot day. No I don’t have a pet and I never had. My favorite food is Pasta, Chips and Candy. If you have any questions please feel free to ask them Talk to you soon Connor Authentic Audience:  Authentic Audience Dear Brendan (Penpal), 26th Of March 2007 My name is Joshua and for some reason my friends calls me Frank. How weird is that. I am 11 years old and I am turning 12 in October. I am in Grade 6 this year. I live in a family of 5. My Dad, Mum, 2 Brothers and I. I live in Melbourne, Victoria located to the South-East of Australia. I am in a grade of 29 including my self. My favorite subject is also math. My favorite sport would have to be Swimming. My favorite color is blue. I have 3 fish and 4 turtles at home but I really want a dog. In Australia at the moment we’re in a drought. Can we please borrow some water? You’re probably wondering what the school grades are like over here. Well first we have kindergarten at 3 and 4 years old. We then go to primary school and start with prep and then Grade 1, Grade 2 and all the way up to Grade 6. So that means that I’m in the last grade of Primary School. We then go to High School. You start with Year 7, Year 8 and all the way up to Year 12. Once you’ve finished Year 12 you graduate and you go to University to get a job. Please write back soon, Joshua Authentic Audience:  Authentic Audience March 28,2007. Dear Juniette, Hi my name is Stephanie, I’m 11years old and in grade 6. Next year I will be in high school. I live in Melbourne, Victoria Australia. I have one younger sister and one younger brother. My favorite hobby is, particularly Calisthenics. I have been doing it for nine years. I have a dog Sammy he is a poodle. No, I haven’t been to America before. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up because there are lots of choices. Here in Australia we see lots of different types of animals like, koalas, snakes, platypus, kangaroos, lizards and much more! My teacher is very nice, her name is Mrs. Anderson. I have lots of friends Anna, Ashley, Lisa Meaghan, Cassie, Steph, Alex and Taylor My favourite colours are Pink, Purple AND MINT GREEN . I hope you write back soon, Stephanie Authentic Audience:  Authentic Audience Hi Sabrina my name’s Rianna, I am female, and are 11 years old turning 12.Ok now I’ll answer some of your questions. Yes, up near the hills there are a few kangaroos.We saw some the other night but we don’t normally see koalas. Lately there’s been a lot of bushfires so many koalas have been injured. Yes, I do miss the crocodile hunter, I and my friends put on our msn R.I.P Steve Irwin I was really sad. Well I’ve seen at least 4 crocodiles but they were with special people. I did watch Crocodile Hunter cause I used to be MAD about Steve Irwin. I have never been to his zoo but I wish I could but now it’s not the same because he’s not here. We have at least 500 or more people in our school... I am in year and next year will be in high school. We have Kindergarten, Prep, grade 1, grade 2, grade 3, grade 4, grade 5 and grade 6.Then in High school Year 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. I like to play sports too. The weather is getting warmer here. It used to be in the mid 20’s but now it’s in about the 30’s most of the time. It’s Autumn here. Yes, we do have a break in April for Easter. I hope we can be good friends. Your pen pal Rianna, P.S No there are no crocodiles round our school at least I hope not!!!! Authentic Audience:  Authentic Audience Internet Pen Pal Program focuses on meaningful writing and provides another audience for student writing feedback. The Internet Pen Pal Program prompted students to reread their writing and ensure a clear understanding of the writing reached their pen pal. Feedback of unclear writing was noted by the student when their pen pal indicated lack of understanding in the responding letter. This increased student attention to meaningful clear writing and audience awareness. Reading and writing involve the construction of meaning. These should be important aspects of district-wide and classroom written language curriculum and instructional practices. Authentic Audience:  Authentic Audience All teachers reported students showed enthusiasm for the Internet Pen Pal Program and that this enthusiasm translated into written language production. Students were motivated by communicating with a ‘real’ person. Special needs students, 2nd language learners, and general education students reported they liked ‘meeting’ new people and ‘talking’ with them. Authentic Audience:  Authentic Audience Audience awareness was noted by students and teachers – politeness. Part of the writing process approach used by many school districts. Students need writing feedback from a variety of audiences (Harp & Brewer, 2005). Problem Solving:  Problem Solving Problem solving is another important aspect of electronic communication. Problem Solving:  Problem Solving From Tyler on May 8, 2004 Dear Sam, What’s up dude? I don’t know what the most dangerous animal is but I think I do. I think it is a crocodile or an alligator. They don’t live by me. I’m 10 years old and I’m 4 feet and 4 inches. My favorite states are : Florida, California, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Nebraska. I don’t really have any other favorite states around the world. For mothers day in school were making flowers for our mom in a flowerpot. But it’s painted because we got to paint it. Sam, in your last letter you gave me there was a word “later O”. What does that mean? It’s spring now. What season is it in Australia? What is the hottest temperature you got? What is the coldest temperature you had? How old are you and how tall are you? How many kids do you have in your class? Do you like any sports and if you do what are they? Sam I like how you put Dear Tyler in big and bright letters up at the top of the paper. Your pen pal, Tyler Problem Solving:  Problem Solving From Tyler on March 19 Dear Jake, Jake, my cousin has a dirt bike and he’s like 7 years old. In your letter it says “patrol car”. What is that? I only watch the Simpsons sometimes! I saw “South Park” once. It’s funny. What month were you born in? I was born in March 8th 1995. Jake, how many classes do you take in one day? I take about 7. Today my class took a big test. It’s about spelling, grammar, and writing. It was really boring. I kind of liked it because we got to miss a lot of stuff. Today is Friday, but people say TGIF. It means, “Thank God Its Friday.” Yesterday it was a snow day. I was so excited! Your pen pal, Tyler Problem Solving:  Problem Solving From Kevin on May 7th Dear Christopher, What’s happening man? I already know what a kangaroo looks like, but thanks. Is a wallaby a miniature kangaroo? I didn’t really do anything over my vacation. What did you do? In my class we made pots for Mother’s Day. We painted them and then planted flowers in them. Your friend, Kevin Problem Solving:  Problem Solving From Tyler W. on May 8, 2004 Dear Jake, In your letter it says, “I am getting a new puppy called Morgan. We pick him up in two weeks and three days and he is a golden retriever.” Then at the end it says,”PS I got my puppy.” Did you get it early? Jake, what is your favorite color? How tall are you? What is your favorite movie? What band or singers do you hate the most? What television show do you hate the most? How many sisters and brother do you have? For mothers day were making flowerpots. Were also putting seeds in them for them to grow. Do you play any sports? If you do what are they? I play soccer and football. I used to play basketball. Sincerely, Tyler W. Problem Solving:  Problem Solving From Matt on April 3, 2004 Dear Nathan, About 2 days ago my baseball coach picked me first to be on the Red Sox!! After you said you were playing baseball for six or seven years, what did you mean when you said, “I use the machine?” My first practice is around April 1st. I saw my friend Lorenzo at my try outs. I hope to have a great team this year. We are having a fund raiser at school. One of the prizes is a cell phone. That’s the one I’m going for. I would be so cool to have a cell phone. Do you have a cell phone? There was this other phone but it wasn’t portable. Please write soon. Your pen pal, Matt Problem Solving:  Problem Solving From Neftalia on May 7, 2004 Dear Alexandra, How are you? I am fine. Yes, I had a good Easter. I got 12 eggs. I went to the park. My birthday is May 9th. No, it was a boring Easter. Do you want to know? Ok, here is how it goes first we played then adults have to hide the eggs. Then we find them. Then we go home. It is almost my birthday and I am so excited. One of my best friends is coming. Also after my birthday I’m going to have an operation for my tonsils. So this month is going to be very very very busy. I am not going to one of my field trips. Bye. From, Neftalia Problem Solving:  Problem Solving From Sharlein on May 7, 2004 Dear Rebecca and Julie, Julie, I am having a spring concert (band). I am having it on May 18th and I’m also having a field trip to Leda Lanes (bowling). Of course I like horses. Remember, I like every kind of animal. What do you mean about Chinese school? I don’t go on Saturdays and Sundays to school. Do you like Mary Kate and Ashley this is for both of you. Oh and I didn’t read the Saddle Club. What is it about? Sincerely, Sharlein Problem Solving:  Problem Solving Problem solving is another aspect necessary when composing text (Hansen, 1998; Routman, 2000). Students may need to choose a topic or decide specifically how to revise their text. Students received feedback indicating comprehension or lack of comprehension of students’ written language. Not being able to understand something in a pen pal letter prompted pen pals writing each other and asking what was meant from written correspondence. Motivation/Engagement:  Motivation/Engagement The Internet Pen Pal Program motivated students to write by being a ‘fun’ activity. All teachers, 2nd language learners, and general education students reported they would participate in this program again because it was fun. 11 out of 14 special needs students reported they would participate in this program again. Motivation:  Motivation Computer Usage:  Computer Usage Teachers, special needs students, 2nd language learners, and the vast majority of general education students reported improved keyboarding skills as the Internet Pen Pal Program progressed. Becoming ‘computer literate’ should be a part of district-wide curriculums and school instructional practices. Currently, being able to keyboard thoughts into the computer as well as utilize other computer functions are important skills for students to utilize in both written language and communication activities. The Internet Pen Pal Program contributed to improved keyboarding and computer usage with all student populations when students keyboarded their letters on the computer. Language Arts Curriculum:  Language Arts Curriculum Teachers noted many positive aspects of their district-wide language arts curriculum. However, weaknesses in the language arts curriculum require careful reflection. Overwhelming number of worksheets Difficult for teachers to complete all the necessary activities in the time allotted. Some teachers felt worksheet concepts built upon previous worksheet concepts thus necessitating doing each worksheet in the program. Ms. Snyder commented, “It’s still very overwhelming. We’re on worksheet page 546 and we’ve done almost every single one of those worksheets.” Language Arts Curriculum:  Language Arts Curriculum Teachers reported it was difficult to allot an hour weekly to pen pal writing and concurrently stay where they were supposed to be in following district language arts curriculum. Au (2002) writes, “…teachers in schools with students of diverse background often find themselves caught in the middle, between meeting the demands of standardized tests and attempting to implement authentic…forms of assessment” p.407. This holds true for instructional practices, also. Language Arts Curriculum:  Language Arts Curriculum Standardized testing scores currently dominate curriculum development and instructional practice in numerous school districts. Often, increasing this focus on test scores promotes teacher instruction focusing on lower level skill development, rather than higher order thinking skills. Observation: This is particularly noted in instructional practices utilized with 2nd language learners and special needs populations. Au (2002) notes, “Ultimately, our goal with students of diverse backgrounds, and with all students, is to promote ownership of literacy…Ownership has to do with valuing literacy, having a positive attitude towards literacy, and having the habit of using literacy”. Language Arts Curriculum:  Language Arts Curriculum Are we serving our students best by providing skill development in written language acquisition through writing prompts and other worksheet activities? Does this impress upon students that writing is a meaningful necessary lifetime activity? Do these practices promote the ownership of literacy previously mentioned by Au? Programs such as the Internet Pen Pal Program afford students the opportunity to acquire written language skills in an authentic manner and can be used successfully in conjunction with other district language arts programs. Language Arts Curriculum:  Language Arts Curriculum Teachers need to be given the flexibility and time to be able to incorporate authentic reading and writing activities in their daily instructional practices. School district language arts programs must ensure teachers have time in their daily schedules for these activities. Internet Pen Pal Program Qualitative Findings:  Internet Pen Pal Program Qualitative Findings Cultural learnings were a program strength. Teachers and students reported that students found the program motivating due to its communicative function. Vast majority of students and all teachers indicated they would want to participate in this program again. Collaboration in learning occurred between pen pals. Higher level thinking skills were promoted through problem solving language differences between the two countries as well as various computer functions. Majority of students reported audience awareness while writing. Internet Pen Pal Program Qualitative Findings:  Internet Pen Pal Program Qualitative Findings Teachers and students reported keyboarding skills improved for those students utilizing the computer to write their letters. Teachers reported the program promoted writing practice and noted an ability to integrate this program with their anthology based district language arts program, as well as with other subject areas in their curriculum. References:  References Au, K.H. (2002). Multicultural factors and the effective instruction of students of diverse backgrounds. In A.E. Farstrup & S.J. Samuels (Eds.), What research has to say about reading instruction (3rd ed., pp.392-413). Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Charron, N. (2005). Talk at the terminal: The relationship between the use of an internet pen pal program and fourth graders’ written language development and attitudes towards writing. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Massachusetts of Lowell. Hansen, J. (1998). When learners evaluate. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Harp, B. & Brewer, J.A. (2005). The informed reading teacher: Research-based practice. Upper Saddle, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. National Center for Education Statistics. (2000). Digest of Education Statistics. Retrieved July 16, 2003 from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs 2001/digest Routman, R. (2000). Conversations: Strategies for teaching, learning, and evaluating. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. Samovar, L.A.,& Porter, R. E. (2001). Communication between cultures. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Smith, M.C., Mikulecky, L., Kibby, M.W., Dreher, M.J., & Dole, J.A., (2000). What will be the demands of literacy in the workplace in the next millennium? Reading Research Quarterly, 35(3), 378-383. U.S. Department of Commerce. (2002). A nation online: How Americans are expanding their use of the Internet. Retrieved November 30, 2002, from http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/dn/anationonline2.pdf

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