Literacy Matters Vol 24 Winter 2024

the responses to each question, I made a list of what I noticed about the topics they discussed. I listed 22 observations for their end-of-the-book reflection and 27 observations for the question about what they would say to the author. Next, I looked through both lists for what they had in common thematically and listed ten categories of comments to encompass all their responses. With these ten categories, I created a chart with each category as a header, and then I listed comments from students’ responses under one of the category headers. While some comments would fit into more than one category, I tried to select the category that aligned strongly with the overall content of the posting. Sometimes, I split a sentence into phrases, with each phrase in a separate category. Once all the comments had been divided among the ten categories, I noticed that some of the categories resembled each other thematically, so I combined some into four major categories (Table 2). In the separate list of their favorite parts of the book, I discovered multiple comments about family members, students commenting on their own family and students asking about the author’s family. After highlighting all comments about family members in pink on all charts, I created another chart with two columns where I listed every comment about their family on one side and every comment about the author’s family in the other column. My next step was examining these comments, looking for themes, and drawing conclusions. Data Analysis / Findings Students’ comments indicate that they connected with Nezhukumatathil as a fellow writer. For example, one student wrote, “I also like to write about nature, but mine would be mixed with fantasy and action. My stories would include elemental powers.”They also wrote questions they had for Nezhukumatathil as a mentor, as if they sought her advice to improve their writing, even asking outright, “What is your advice for other writers?” Some asked about specific writing techniques, such as how she crafted the text so that the “chapters all tied together in the end.”One student complimented the visual imagery of the book and then said she would be interested to know“how that came about (?) idk, I’ve just always thought it was interesting how humans can create things like that… how is a person capable of stringing words together in a way that strikes that much emotion?” Students also showed interest in Nezhukumatathil’s feelings as a writer, asking her if she was “nervous when [she] published [her] book.” Another student explained, “I feel as if writing books take not just time, but also courage. Did you ever feel afraid to put any feelings in….?” Many students used language that portrayed them as aligned with Nezhukumatathil as naturalists. Some expressed anticipation for future discoveries, such as when one student commented, “The turtle, the bugs, the snake, so much life outside just from walking into the woods, and yet so much life to be explored, so much life I haven’t seen.” Another student said he is now a student of ecology: “I go home now, ready, to watch videos about just - plants - and bugs - and animals - how they behave - interact with one another - where they came from - and then what their numbers are.”This student brought the two ideas

message about relationships while offering countless passages worthy of rhetorical analysis, style lessons, and rich discussion. Data Sources I chose two data sets for this study, both timed journal responses. I occasionally require AP students to write timed responses in class to prepare them for their timed exam, but also to teach them that writing often spawns new thinking. When students write journal responses, their work is not graded on mechanics in any way. In fact, I encourage them to ignore mechanics in favor of getting every thought onto paper so their ideas will not be hindered by form. Students did not see the journal topic until it was time to write, again to mimic a testing situation and generate authentic and unique responses. Suppose students do not have time to talk or think about the questions before they write. In that case, they will be less concerned with what others will write and will have less time to question if I have any prescribed desires for what they write, thereby generating more authentic responses. The spontaneous nature of these two journal responses led me to choose them as the most appropriate data to answer my research questions. In addition, students had read the entire book by the time they wrote these journal responses, so they would have had a complete picture of the text by the time they wrote these entries. As I want to examine personal responses and possible internalization of personal and literary concepts, I focus here on individual responses instead of group discussions. The assignments were posted on Canvas, our learning management system, and students typed in their responses on Canvas, as well (Table 1). Participants The participants in this study are 18 students who were enrolled in AP English Language and Composition during the Fall semester of 2021. One of the students was classified as a senior, but the others were juniors. Of the 18 students, 15 are students of color (83%), indicating overrepresentation in this advanced class compared to 40% of the student body who self-identified as students of color. The class consisted of seven students who self-identified as African American (39%), three students who self-identified as Asian (17%), three students who self-identified as Latinx (17%), three students who self-identified as white (17%), and two students who self-identified as being of mixed ethnicities (11%). The school where I teach is a large public school in a small town with students spread throughout more than half the county, some living in town and some in rural areas as far as 20 miles away from school. Every elementary school that feeds into the high school receives Title I funds, and about 65% - 70% of the high school students regularly qualify for free or reduced lunch fees. Students consented to include their work in our action research project with consent forms signed by their parents at the beginning of the semester. Process I copied and pasted each student’s journal response on one document for each question to examine the data from these two sets of journal entries thematically. Then, as I read

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| 10 | Literacy Matters | Volume 24 • Winter 2024


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