Buddy Journaling Puget Sound Writing Project 2008-2009 Megan Nowak Megan Nowak Buddy Journaling Abstract Fifth graders and third graders worked as writing buddies. They shared writing and offered feedback to each other. Fifth graders also taught mini writing lessons to third graders. As a result, through observations and written responses, it was clear that fifth graders had a positive writing experience through this project. Buddy journaling should be squeezed into the current curriculum. Megan Nowak Buddy Journaling Rationale, Vision, Question “What should I write about? I have nothing interesting to say.” My fifth grade students need to develop into confident writers. I would like them to learn the value of communication through writing and to foster their natural ability to put thoughts down into words with the expectation that an audience will read their work. Will the routine audience of third grade buddy journalists promote confidence in my 5th grade students as writers? As in many forms of expression, whether it is dancers at recitals, actors at shows or journalists with articles, there needs to be an audience. Many people need an audience to understand the “why” in what they do. In many situations, we use this audience reaction as a source of confidence in our own actions. Maybe in a perfect world, people would develop self-esteem all internally without the need for outside recognition or praise; however that is a naïve thought for most. People thrive on the reaction of others and many times it directly affects the way people feel about themselves. Receiving positive feedback from an audience in writing could have long term affects on writers’ self-esteems, which could directly relate to the confidence of how they perceive themselves as a writer. If you say you understand something, then you can explain what you understand to others. R. J. Kizlik Teaching others a task is a natural confidence builder. If the third grade writing buddies are required to learn a task from their fifth grade partners, then there is an expectation that the fifth graders understand the task well enough to explain it. Transferring this understanding to younger peers may positively Megan Nowak Buddy Journaling affect the confidence my fifth graders have in their own writing abilities. This confidence may transfer to other genres of fifth grade writing. Meeting regularly with our third grade buddies provides purpose and validation of the writing task to my students. When I student taught with sixteen students in my class, I was able to respond to student journal entries every day by writing notes back and interjecting feedback. That type of interaction seems impossible with thirty students. I do respond to student work, however, not nearly as frequently or thoroughly as I would have hoped. I predict that fifth grade students will receive constant natural feedback from the third graders whether it is a chuckle, confused look, comment or a smile. These regular meetings provide a safe place to share and experiment with writing. I’m excited to pursue third grade buddy journaling with my fifth graders. My hope is that it will help them grow confident in writing and supply them with a safe, regular audience to share. I hope to learn how a 5th and 3rd grade buddy journaling project will affect my 5th graders’ attitudes toward writing. Collecting Strategy Megan Nowak Since my question is basically about promoting confidence in writing through buddy journaling, my strategy will be to establish buddy groups between 5th and 3rd graders, and schedule regular buddy meetings where I will implement carefully selected writing lessons. These writing lessons will follow and compliment the Shoreline writing standards, finding commonality between the areas that 5th and 3rd graders need to grow. Beginning Plan Since I started this Application Project last month, my third grade buddy teacher and I have already grouped students into writing groups. We considered each child’s Megan Nowak Buddy Journaling strengths and weaknesses in writing before assigning groups. Our goal was to create groups of two or three students where members would be at ease to share and also compliment each other’s behaviors. Then the next two buddy journaling meetings were getting to know you activities where students learned what they had in common with their buddy. They applied this knowledge to an art lesson where buddy groups created special buddy journals with pictures representing things they had in common. My plan is now to use this jointly created journal as a special writing communication vehicle between our 3rd and 5th grade buddies. Lessons and products from lessons will be stored within this journal. I would like our buddies to meet at least once a month, however 5th graders will work on writing at other times during the month that will be shared with their writing buddies. Even though we may physically meet once a month, the journal will be passed back and forth more frequently in order to keep nurturing our buddy relationships. Documentation Information will be continually collected throughout this entire process until it ends in May. Video will be used to show how writing relationships change as the year progresses. Samples from writing journals will be used to analyze any changes in writing between 3rd and 5th graders. Another important form of documentation will be taken by informal and formal surveys. Asking students how they feel about sharing their writing with their buddies. Review of Sources My third grade buddy and I would like to not only promote writing through our buddy audience, but also through the use of literature. We have been accumulating piles Megan Nowak Buddy Journaling of books that promote writing to use as possible read alouds. Below is a list of books that talk about shared writing that we will evaluate and possibly use: -Amelia’s Notebook by Marissa Moss -Judy and the Volcano by -Cooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry -You Have to Write by Janet Wong My buddy teacher and I have copies of the 3rd and 5th grade Shoreline School District Writing Scope & Sequence. Our goal is to review this scope and sequence together and find the commonality in our required forms and genres. We hope to use this as a guide when structuring and selecting our buddy lessons. There are many great educational sources that I plan to draw ideas and lessons from. Blowing Away the State Writing Assessment Test by Jane Kiester. This source has specific lessons that meet the required Shoreline writing scope and sequence at both grade levels. I have used this source as a fourth grade teacher and there are strong lessons on narrative, exposition, word choice and organization of a paper. There are also student examples and prompts to help students start writing. I plan to rework some of these lessons into a buddy setting. Units of Study for Teaching Writing. Grades 3-5 by Lucy Calkins. This is my second year trying Lucy Calkins’s curriculum. Last year, I was only able to teach one of the five books on starting the writer’s workshop. I have enjoyed the lessons that I have taught so far. They provide structure to the writer’s workshop process. The lessons also include student examples and specific ideas to help student’s become more comfortable writers. I’d like to delve deeper into Calkins’s books on Memoirs and Narratives. These are two forms that both third and fifth graders need specific instruction. I hope to read these sources and form lessons to implement in a buddy setting. Megan Nowak Buddy Journaling Read, Write, Think – website. This website offers an immense array of lessons to choose from and combines reading with writing lessons. Many of the lessons stem off of reading a picture book or part of a novel as a vehicle to show students how other writers create their pieces. This source will serve as another tool in planning interesting buddy writing lessons. Writing Essentials by Regie Routman. Routman’s book offers specific lessons on shared writing ideas. Combining the structure of shared writing with the content of the curriculums listed above is how I would like to focus my buddy lessons. Other Educational Sources: I am extremely lucky to work with Katie Johnson. She has always been a mentor to me when teaching writing. I plan to frequently ask her questions and brainstorm buddy ideas. More Than Words by Katie Johnson. Reading into Writing by Katie Johnson. Description and Analysis of Information The Story of My Project For the last few weeks, my fifth graders have been meeting with their assigned third grade buddies. The third grade teacher and I adapted lessons that were current and relevant to each respective grade level’s curriculum. Throughout these scheduled buddy meetings, I collected data from my fifth graders through conversation, observation and surveys in response to their writing interactions. For the most part, buddy interaction took place in my fifth grade classroom or outside in the courtyard. Fifth graders were in charge to find a comfortable place to work, write and listen with their buddy. After a few getting to know you activities and decorating a joint writing journal, the third grade teacher and I decided to start our first buddy lesson with a published Megan Nowak Buddy Journaling piece. The third grade buddies had just published a crayfish report. My students completed the same report two years ago when they were in third grade and could easily draw back on the writing elements and time put into this project. The third graders shared their published report with their fifth grade buddy, and in return, the fifth graders wrote a letter back to their buddies describing at least two specific parts of the report that they found interesting. After this lesson, I asked my students to tell me about their experience. For the most part they were shocked at how well the third graders were able to write and of course the fifth graders were awed by the third graders cursive handwriting. Many of the fifth graders compared parts of what they remembered in their third grade reports with their buddy’s report. The fifth graders wrote about these similarities in the reflective paragraph for their buddy. Another buddy lesson centered around setting. Together over multiple days buddies completed a prewrite, draft, and revision session. After the completion of setting lessons, my students completed a formal survey where they answered questions about the overall buddy writing experience. Analysis of Information Collected: Out of the twenty-five surveys collected, twenty-four stated that they would like to meet with their third grade buddy again and one was indifferent (circled both yes and no). The explanations about why they would like to meet with their buddy ranged from “enjoyed spending time with someone younger,” “fun to be a teacher,” and “like to see how younger kids write.” Twenty-two out of the twenty-five wrote that they enjoyed writing with their buddy. One student wrote, “It is very different the way my buddy writes. It opens my mind of how to explain Megan Nowak Buddy Journaling things to them better.” Other responses about why they enjoyed writing with their buddy included “third graders have great imaginations,” “they are good writers,” and “they were able to teach someone younger a few new things.” The three that circled “no” in this category mainly stated that they didn’t like writing, however these three also circled that they would like to meet with their writing buddy again. The fifth graders wrote a range of different answers to what they feel should be the next lesson with their buddy. These ideas included: fictional writing, character paragraph, poems, newspaper articles, short stories. One student wrote, “My buddy needs to work on descriptive writing so that is what we should work on next.” Another student commented that the next lesson he thought his buddy should learn was how to put more similes into his writing. Many of the fifth graders felt that they could teach their buddy about writing. Answers ranged from helping their buddy with organization, teaching their buddy how to use a dictionary, adding descriptive words, and not starting every sentence with “I.” Nearly all of the fifth graders wrote that their third grade buddies learned something from their teaching. Many did not feel that they learned anything from their buddy except two wrote that next time they need to slow down when they teach. Seventy-two percent of the fifth graders would not want to change their buddy member. Reasons for this included attachment to buddy, buddy has better ideas than the fifth grader, and they have too much in common. Out of the seven fifth graders that were open to switching, four wanted to have a buddy that was the same gender and the other three were curious about the other third graders writing techniques. Megan Nowak Buddy Journaling Conclusion I was surprised by how quickly the fifth graders were able to connect with their third grade buddy and feel comfortable working with them. I know that they are the older member of the pair, so I wonder if the third graders also felt this comfortable to open up with their buddy. After reading their surveys and listening to their comments, it was very apparent that the fifth graders enjoyed this process of teaching writing to a younger student. Many fifth graders were amazed by the creative ideas of their third grade buddies. I found it interesting that some fifth graders felt confident to diagnose what their buddy should work on next. The only students that seemed less comfortable with the process were fifth graders that were paired with a third grader of the opposite gender. Working with someone of the same gender seemed important when sharing writing and ideas. I really do think that many of my fifth graders felt more confident about their own writing by working with their buddy. An example is that many of the fifth graders really wanted to teach their buddy different writing styles and a few even picked out areas of weakness that they would like to work together on. I am curious to meet with my buddy teacher to learn her results from the survey she gave her students. I wonder if they are as positive. The buddies probably only met a total of eight times so far. It is definitely a challenge to find time for buddy journal writing with the many curriculum demands. However, this feedback from my students made me realize that working with someone younger on writing was enjoyable and overall they felt confident to teach and introduce new writing topics to their buddy. Megan Nowak Buddy Journaling Will this confidence in teaching to someone younger transfer to my students’ individual writing? It is too soon to tell. However, I know with myself the more exposure and positive feedback I receive in writing reflects on how I feel about myself as a writer. It would be interesting to continue buddy journaling as well as individual writing for a while longer and see if there are changes in my students’ writing or attitude for writing. However, I’m not sure how I would collect data that directly measures how a writing buddy experience affects my students writing. Reflection Buddy journaling was a great experience for me as a teacher. The application project gave me the green light to try something that I was curious about with my students. Because of the project form, I was forced to put these lingering ideas into action and allot time in the school day for buddy journaling. I learned that my fifth graders overall seem to feel confident about their writing especially with a third grade audience. I learned that fifth graders feel they have writing ideas to share with their younger peers and that fifth graders can read a piece of third grade writing and gently give feedback to better that third graders work. I was amazed by my students’ reflection on this activity. In their meetings, I was awed when I noticed that my fifth graders were able to break down a writing lesson so that it was digestible for a third grader. It was great to watch my fifth graders teach a modified version of a lesson that I had taught earlier in the year to their buddies. My original question was about nurturing fifth graders writing confidence. Confidence is something that is complicated to measure. My fifth graders were at an advantage that they were able to work with younger students. I noticed that this really allowed them to be open and offer suggestions to someone who Megan Nowak Buddy Journaling was younger. I’m not sure they would have been as open with an older peer. Third graders I noticed, felt more pressure from having to show their writing to a fifth grader. Some third graders felt insecure during the process and these third graders maybe took away less positive writing feelings. However, I feel that over time and more connections with your buddy, even the shy third graders could take away something positive about writing. From my student responses and observations, I learned that I definitely need to continue with buddy journaling in my curriculum.
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