Research: Past & Present
all students achieve higher standards
Question/Definition of Problem
Summary by Cynthia Brawner
What happens to third graders' writing when
they participate in a reading and letter
Third grade writers struggle with language development, such as letter formation,
spacing of words, use of punctuation and capitalization [Berrill p. 5].
Each year teachers use published curricula or design their own to address
the skill third graders use and need. The problem found in my third grade
writers is that they struggled with all components of letter writing; dialogue,
organization, sentence structure, flow, text-connections, vocabulary, mechanics,
support from the reading, and making references about themselves.
Within the four core subject areas:
language arts, mathematics, science, and social
studies, writing is a major component in my classroom.
However, it was during my years of teaching children
and adults that I realized students, many of
the primary grades, were not successful in writing.
According to teachers and some students, many
students loathed writing altogether. Some students
thought, "this is too much" or felt, "I'm tired." Others
questioned, "Why do we have to write", and complained, "This
is unfair". Within my third grade class, I decided
to take a hand poll to determine who liked writing.
What I found wasn't too far apart from what I've
heard from teachers and students over the previous
years. I realized a great challenge was ahead
since my teaching goal was to help my students
become better writers.
After assessing the introductory letters,
I noticed several trends among many of the
students' writing. During the data collection
from the letters, other trends began to emerge.
The students had inconsistencies in creating
in organization, sentence structure using a combination of simple and complex
sentences, spelling and using the correct tense, showing evidence of reading
the literature, using transitional sentences, and making text-to connections.
the book discussions, many of the students
would begin with "I liked the book 'cause" or "It
was good 'cause". However, they had would not
transferred their feelings into their letters.
They often wrote in fragmented sentences or
extremely long sentences and some would have
a ten-lined sentence. Other noticeable trends
in vocabulary were the use of 'in' for 'and' and
the use of 'fill' for 'feel'; incorrectly use
the apostrophe [used as a comma at the top
of the word]; and the incorrectly use subject
and verb tenses
The tools used to provide information are the occurrences of errors I-Letter
and the C1, C2, and C3 letters, comments from book discussions, a scoring rubric:
that I designed specifically for this pen pal letter writing research, and
a rubric guide. The data collected over a period of four  months was measured
against the tool--letter-writing rubric.
Analysis and Findings
That all randomly selected students demonstrated growth in the letter writing
process. Their occurrence of errors decreased and their level of writing increased.
However, the majority of them continued to struggle with vocabulary and mechanics.
After analyzing the findings, I strongly
believe that the policy implications should
be for school districts to require more writing
across the curriculum
blocks with a link to classroom [school to school] pen pals. The students in
this research began as poor writers because of the lack of exposure to letter
writing and writing based on reading. . As they corresponded with their pen
pal improvements began to emerge. During most of this research, many students
struggled with maintaining satisfactory writing and the pen pal dialogue. If
school districts, mainly Chicago, stressed the writing in other ways; similar
to young authors, students' reading and writing ability will increase.
a local level, schools can implement writing
across the curriculum program. One program
that Chicago Public Schools designed in the
past was the Read, Write Well. This citywide
program provided a means for the reluctant
writer to engage and succeed in writing. If
CPS were to encourage the K to 2 grades to
participate in pen pal groups, and offer writing
contests for grades K to 2 and recognize them
system wide, writing improvements will be evident.
the classroom, teachers can create a classroom
pen pal letter writing activities or correspond
with other schools outside of the city or state
to establish the beneficial pen pal letter
To continue in a pen pal letter-writing
program either classroom based or school wide
based. A venture would be to promote a pen pal
program district wide. Other steps are to continue
reinforcing the use of vocabulary and mechanics.
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