Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Improving Literacy Skills: Tips for Creating an Online e-Pal Exchange Program

Creating an on-line e-pal program has the potential to help learner struggling with reading and writing to engage in writing for real purposes. Research shows that in order to improve reading and writing skills, students need to read and write MORE. Often times it is difficult to engage older learners who struggle with readin gand writing using traditional literacy activities. Barb Wollak, a speech and language pathologist in St. Paul, has paired her students with college students at Appalachian State University. The relationship has been rewarding for everyone! Check out Barb's tips for creating a successful e-pal program. Here are a few ideas:

1. Find a college with students studying to become teachers. contact a collaborating professor. the college students get to experience hands-on writing samples with real students while Secondary students get the opportunity to engage in reading and writing for real purposes.

2. Create a blog or wiki to provide additional experiences for "authentic" reading and writing. Check out how Barb and her students at Highland Park Junir High use a blog to ask questions, share opintions and much more at hpjh.blogspot.com

3. Contact parents and get them involved with the project. Inform them how you will handle privacy and safety. Monitor all e-mails, print them out, and send them home. You can make the experience more meaningful by including pictures on your blog. Be sure to get signed permission from parents and let them know that onky first names will be used

4. Establish an e-mail monitor on each end of the collaboration. the college students should be instructed to ssend a blind copy (bcc) of all e-mails to the person coordinating the e-pal program, including the last correspondence from school-aged e-pal.

5. Teach students how to use assistive technology like Co:Writer to help support their writing. The text the students create is your baseline date before you inmplement assistive technology. Watch their writing and reading skills improve over time as they ask you if they can write to their e-pal. Translation: "Can I read and write some more?"

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