Letís get this thing going.
Iím going to suggest how it would work best for me and you can accept and/or reject my ideas and weíll work from there.
February is a good time to start as my students will be writing five poetry journal entries and a short essay for our poetry unit. There should be a lot of writing to talk about. Prior to the start of the web pals exchange, I will also review the six (+ one) traits with my students:
This language, if your students are comfortable with it, should be the language used to talk about writing in general. Of course, I imagine the conversations will be more specifically focused on the subjects and themes of the writing.
I have been wondering how to pair our people up and it seems to me that the best way would be to have your students go through my studentsí web pages and get a sense of the kids themselves. I believe in not coloring oneís perception of a student (heís LD, or sheís got a bad attitude, etc.). I think itís important to let the relationship develop naturally. My students may respond quite differently from what I might expect and Iíd hate to send out any preconceptions that could be damaging. Therefore, if your students would choose their pals based on an intuitive connection that they get from viewing the web page of a particular student, I think weíd have a better system of pairing overall. Also, all of my students have email links on their web pages, so it would be much easier for your students to start the correspondence with just a click.
The first email from your students should
The first email from my student should
From then on, I think the direction of the conversation needs to be driven by your students who have goals to meet for your class. I would like to see them talking about any or all of the following:
I know you mentioned creating a three-way communication situation, but I wonder if this might be too confusing, especially for my students, considering the limited time they will have to communicate with one another. Remember, most ninth graders are still in the concrete operational stage, and while itís frustrating, itís important to not underestimate the limitations it produces. I think it might be better for your students to keep their communication with each of their two web pals as a two-way process.
However, since your students are going to be juggling quite a bit during this ďordeal,Ē Iíd suggest you create a web forum for them to discuss the procedural and communicative concerns/problems/joys they are experiencing. This forum (list serv, bulletin board?) would be a place where you and I and your other cooperating teacher could also go to join the discussion. It would be a great way to use the web to further distill this wonderful process.
I will be updating all studentsí pages very soon, and will do so on a timely basis during this process so that there will be no lapses in understanding. (My students edit their pages on an intranet server and I publish them to our Internet server).
But as far as your students going to my web site to find their web pal, itís ready to go, if that is how we will pair up.
I am sending a copy of this letter to our Director of Curriculum and Instruction because I want her to know what we (Iíve) been up to.
Let me hear from you soon. I think this will be a very fun time for all of us and I am looking forward to telling my students all about it.