Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Susan Jurow

Second Advisor

Dan Liston

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Dutro

Fourth Advisor

Kris Gutierrez

Fifth Advisor

Amy Wilkins


This dissertation examined how affective dimensions of learning are expressed in children's writing by looking at the practice of El Maga letter writing at the after-school club El Pueblo Mágico. In educational research there is a growing understanding of the intersection between emotions and cognitive learning, and toward that end this study investigated one way in which children expressed emotionally charged topics through writing to a mythical cyberwizard, El Maga, and the responses they received. Data analysis was completed using Critical Discourse Analysis, through the conceptual lens of Cultural-Historical Activity Theory. This study draws attention to how the informal mode of communication between the students and El Maga can be leveraged to promote experimenting, by way of written language, with social and emotional topics in a powerful and productive way. This exploration of how the textual artifacts of Gmail unveiled the emotional component of students' learning emphasizes the importance of attending to how El Maga's responses to children's letters are purposefully framed. The significance of the practice of letter writing at El Pueblo Mágico calls for an equally intentionally designed approach of responding to the emotionally charged topics in children's letters. This has implications for how the organizers of El Pueblo Mágico think about and enact the function and objective of El Maga. Additionally, this study aimed to contribute to an already ongoing conversation about how sociocultural learning theories can more explicitly account for the affective dimensions of learning.