Study of Elementary Students' Attitudes about Writing after a Cross-Age Tutoring Experience

Article excerpt

This study examined second and fourth grade elementary students' attitudes about writing before and after their participation in a cross-age tutoring writing program. The administration and analysis of pretest and posttest writing attitude surveys were performed with treatment and non-treatment groups. Descriptive statistics were compiled and examined and an analysis of covariance test was performed. The analysis of these surveys revealed that there is no significant difference among those second and fourth grade participants of the cross-age tutoring program from those second and fourth grade students who did not participate in the cross-age tutoring program. However, individual interviews were conducted with all of the participants in order to determine prevailing themes of the tutoring activities. Positive information about the cross-age tutoring program was obtained during these personal interviews. An analysis of common themes revealed that participants of the cross-age tutoring writing program enjoyed the cross-age tutoring experience, had positive attitudes about writing because of the program, would volunteer for the tutoring sessions again, and became better writers because of the tutoring experiences.

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When asking kindergarten or first grade students about what they like to do in school, many responses focus on reading and writing. However, by the time these students enter the fourth grade, their attitudes about reading and writing are often less than positive. Many intermediate grade teachers often hear audible groans from their students after stating, "Get your journals out, it is time to write." What happens in these few short years? In the current assessment-driven educational climate, teachers are searching for ways to improve students' writing skills. Since much emphasis is placed on writing instruction, teachers are responding to the pressure of high-stakes testing by spending more time teaching writing and building written exercises and projects into their content area lessons (Manzo, 2001). Perhaps, an increased quantity of student writing is pervading elementary schools, rather than high-quality teacher writing instruction; thereby, creating a subdued atmosphere of unenthusiastic writers. The implementation of cross-age writing tutoring opportunities may be one method to motivate and to engage young writers.

The Importance of Positive Attitudes Toward Writing

Children's attitudes, values, beliefs, and motivation play a significant role in their literacy learning (Bottomley & Henk, 1998). When students see themselves as incompetent writers, a lower level of engagement will occur in their writing. Some self-efficacy researchers have suggested that teachers should pay as much attention to students' perceptions of competence as to actual competence, for the perceptions may more accurately predict students' motivation and future academic choices. Knudson (1991) reported that writing instruction should develop affective characteristics (desire to write), along with higher level cognitive skills. Cognitive characteristics may set limits on students' development; but, affective characteristics will influence whether an attempt is made to reach those limits. Teachers must be cognizant to the fact that how students' perceive themselves as writers affects their writing abilities. Guidance, support, and encouragement must be provided to students as they mature in the art of writing.

Benefits of Cross-Age and Peer Tutoring Experiences

Review of the literature reveals many studies focusing on the benefits of cross-age and peer tutoring (Berliner, et al., 1998). Positive aspects of cross-age and peer tutoring include one-to-one ratio that maximizes active participation between the tutor and tutee. Additionally, tutors may be able to model and share information in a more understandable manner and communicate more effectively than teachers (Cohen, 1986, as cited by Davenport, et al. …