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Developing children's writing

Inquiry based learning

lani van Heerden

on 24 October 2016

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Transcript of Developing children's writing

Crossing the mid line helps the brain to shift information from one side of the brain to the next through the corpus callosum. This is a fibrous band which transfers the information from the right hemisphere of the brain to the left and vice versa. When a child crosses the midline this shift happens frequently and is important for having fluency in the processing and acting on information.
The importance of using a dominant hand for children is important in writing where one hand must take the role of using the pencil and the other hand accompanies by holding the paper still (Connell, 2013). If children are not accustomed to having a dominant hand then it can make writing for them difficult as neither hand is strong due to both taking an equal role in tasks.
Gill Connell
Melissa's wondering...'
According to Browne (1993) children need to understand the reasons behind writing and the purpose of writing, which is to tell a story or to explain a course of events. The group of children had a misconception about writing, thinking that it is simply to put words on a page, thus the reason for them counting their words, where in fact they can use other methods to record their writing and ideas. Browne (1993) also mentions that it is very important for a child to have confidence, high expectations of themselves as well as a willingness to participate and to take chances. The group of children have lost their encouragement, due to their low level within English.
Top Notch Teaching (2012) and Smith (2010) suggest that teachers implement the use of mind maps and diagrams to help children get ideas down. Moats (2000) and Wing Jan (2009) explains that teachers can implement images and questioning to create a clear image in a child’s mind, thus it places them on the scene of their chosen event.

What the researchers says
Motivating students in writing is a difficulty I have experienced in most of my placements. I wondered whether pictorial prompts would give struggling students a foundation to inspire ideas that they can therefore translate into writing.
Motivation and Engagement

The affects of brain gym activities with a focus on crossing the mid line in relation to writing

Phase one of the inquiry process
Brain gym activities I used
triangulating the evidence
outcome of the intervention
and produce writing pieces.
Strategy to help children
vocalize, visualize
An inquiry was done with year 5 and 6 students, in which the teacher informed that the five pupils where between the PM levels of 21 and 22, which is quite a low level for this particular year group
The Group
Numerous observations were done to establish their writing methods and attitudes
5 writing samples of each student were analyzed
In depth discussions with teachers and teacher aids were conducted beforehand

Children had no motivation in writing
Children had a set expectation on how much they were required to write to 'keep teacher happy' (50 words)
Children didn't know how to go about writing
Children didn't know what to write
Children showed a misconception of what writing is
The process
Children were given a scenario of being apart of a car crash and assigned particular roles.
Children were given visual aids
Children were not informed that they will be doing writing, instead children were told that their 'character' will be interviewed to find out more about what happened
Children were 'interviewed' and recordings were made, along with brainstorms on what they heard, felt and saw.
By using the information from the 'interviews' the children had to go back and read over the notes and decide who they think was the culprit.
Children had to write a summary page on why they think their chosen suspect was the culprit.

Findings of inquiry
Question, Wonder & Observe
A Group of students would get extremely distracted
They were not engaged or motivated
All students were boys with high behaviour needs
Had short attention spans,
especially in writing
Decide on Intervention
Chose 5 students who needed the most help
Decided to improve and experiment with teaching strategies and techniques (Passion 1 & 4) (Dana, 2009)
Posed question: 'How do I motivate and engage students who are
easily distracted in the
learning area of
Research theories
Theories and research related to classroom interventions:
The reflective educators guide to classroom research: Learning to teach and teaching to learn through practitioner inquiry (Dana, 2009)
Making classroom assessment work (Davies & Hill, 2009)
Directions for learning: The New Zealand curriculum principles, and teaching as inquiry (Education Review Office, 2011)
The New Zealand curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007)

Theories and research related to motivation and engagement of boys in writing:
'Me read? No way' A guide to improving boys literacy (Ontario Education, 2004)
Literacy Online: Motivation and engagement (Ministry of Education, 2013)
Strategies to Implement
Choose appropriate resources and activities for boys –I asked the students what they were interested in and found writing topics related to those interests.

Use the arts to bring literacy to life – I planned to use drawing to help with the planning stages of the writing. I already knew that these boys were more likely to succeed if they could see a picture in front of them. I decided that I would allow them to draw their characters and setting, this way they would be able to look at the pictures when they were required to describe these parts of the narrative.

Let the boys talk – I would allow the students to talk as long as they were discussing ideas.

Find positive role models – I would consistently point out the boys who are working really well, hoping that they would become role models and the rest of the boys would follow in their footsteps.

Connect with students interests

Share your love of reading and writing – I decided I would complete the tasks I set, to show that I was excited about the work as well.

Set expectations for behaviour and performance

Set goals and next steps for each student to work towards. Provide feedback consistently.

(Ministry of Education, 2013) & (Ontario Education, 2004)

Writing is thinking on paper
My group of students:
Five Year 5 & 6 students: 4 boys and 1 girl;
All below or well-below National Standard for writing based on easTTle assessment;
All struggle to add detail and descriptive words (adjectives) in their writing;
Mostly have low motivation towards writing tasks;
Have difficulty thinking of ideas and with translating any ideas these into writing
Three focus points of assessment
students' needs in terms of ensuring on-task behaviour, i.e., distractions, levels of interest, engagement
Willingness to help their peers
how well students could follow instructions
discussions and how these contributed to the students' writing products

the students, their interests and their attitudes towards writing - and the shift in attitudes throughout the intervention
Relationships and attitudes towards each other and how these relationships impacted on writing tasks
Their engagement (or lack of) with the writing tasks
students had engaged with the task at hand;
whether or not they were interested in the writing topic based on the quality and quantity of their writing;
that their was in fact improvement in relation to the intervention goal;
that students understood the advice I gave to improve their writing;
whether or not group or teacher-student discussion impacted on their writing on any given day
Children became excited to do the activity
Children were on task and not distracted
Children were able to ask and form question in regards to the topic.
Children vocalized their ideas and place themselves at the scene
Children worked as a group and worked alongside one another
Their writing became more descriptive and it had more depth than before
Children wasn't aware they were writing, so confidence wasn't an issue
Each student produced at least 6 pages of relevant writing and ideas
Children came to understand the purpose of writing "it is something we use as a tool to record ideas".
Brainstorming ideas and vocalizing

* Video was altered due to ethical responsibilities
Browne, A. (1993). Helping children to write. London: Paul Chapman Publishing Ltd.

Dana, N. F. (2009). The reflective educator's guide to classroom research: Learning to teach and teaching to learn through practitioner inquiry (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Davies, A., & Hill, M. (2009). Making classroom assessment work. Wellington: NZCER Press.

Education Review Office. (2011, July 22). Directions for learning: The New Zealand curriculum principles, and teaching as inquiry. Retrieved August 2, 2013, from Education review office: Te tari arotake matauranga: http://www.ero.govt.nz/National-Reports/Directions-for-Learning-The-New-Zealand-Curriculum-Principles-and-Teaching-as-Inquiry-May-2011/Teachers-inquiry-into-the-impact-of-their-teaching-on-students.
Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand curriculum. Wellington: Learning Media Limited.

Ministry of Education. (2011). The New Zealand curriculum writing standards from years 1-8. New Zealand: Learning Media Ltd.

Ministry of Education. (2013). Literacy online. Retrieved August 16, 2013, from Te Kete Ipurangi: http://literacyonline.tki.org.nz/Literacy-Online/Teacher-needs/Reviewed-resources/Reading/Comprehension/ELP-years-5-8/Motivation-and-engagement

Moats, L, C. (2000). Speech to Print: Language essentials for teachers. Baltimore: Paul.H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Ontario Education. (2004). Me read? No way! A practical guide to improving boys' literacy skills. Ontario: Queens printer for Ontario.

Smith, D. (2010). Strategies to improve Student Writing. Kansas: The Idea center.

Top Notch Teaching (2012). Eleven strategies for getting students to write. Retrieved on 11 August 2013 from http://topnotchteaching.com/ strategies-for-getting-your-students-to-write

Wing Jan, L. (2009). Write Ways: Modelling writing forms 3d Ed. Sydney, Australia: Oxford University Press.

Play if you like
Teaching and Learning Inquiry
What Learning had Occured?
Vast changes in the engagement and motivation of students
Seemed like completely different learners
Excited when I came in to teach them
Were writing complete narratives including a setting, characters, a problem and solution without getting distracted or shutting down
Shift between curriculum levels
Changes in Curriculum Levels
When I first worked with the students:
Only just achieving at level 2 of the writing curriculum
Only included some content that was related to expectations
No or little detail supporting the main points

Easily achieving at level 3 of the writing curriculum
Using paragraphs and grouping ideas
Using a variety of sentence structures that are grammatically correct
Using a variety of planning templates
Able to proofread and edit their own writing
(Ministry of Education, 2011)
Next steps for these students
Main focus should be on keeping their positivity and passion for writing alive
Work on different writing genres
Work towards meeting national standards for writing
Learn to add more detail
Understand what is required for the audience/purpose of the text
Increase their vocabulary knowledge
"He was outstanding today. He contributed to everything that we were doing. He seemed very motivated to complete his work and was completely engaged in what he was doing. During the role-play activity he kept wanting to talk about his character, showing his enthusiasm. He even wanted to invent a second character."
play me if you like?
...pre-intervention, during and post-intervention allowed me to understand:
of the students allowed me to understand:
...allowed me to ensure:
Examples of...
Writing products:
What the experts say...
Students showed enthusiasm in discussing the picture which stimulated the thought process; students began finding it easier to convert these thoughts on to paper
Requirement was that each sentence needed at least one adjective (thesaurus sheets were provided as support); use of adjectives in writing improved in quantity (75% growth based on examples from students' writing over the year) and quality.
Next steps
Using more complex sentences– simple and compound particularly for creating an interesting climax and satisfying resolution through elaborating their ideas in these sentences (Assessment Resource Bank, 2013; Ministry of Education, 2010).
For two students who tend to write many unnecessary words, their focus should be on selecting appropriate vocabulary with purpose, using precise and descriptive words to create a mental image of what they are explaining through their writing and to learn to make writing coherent through paragraphing (Assessment Resource Bank, 2013).
All five students need to learn to correctly spell many high-frequency words used in their writing (Ministry of Education, 2010).
Processes I took and how these connect research
As explained by Davies and Hill (2009), it is important to cover the three general sources of assessment: observations, products and conversations. From prior analysis of their previous writing products, and observation of their initial attitudes towards writing in the early stages, I was able to decide on a possible intervention plan that will cater for the various diversities within the group (Te Kete Ipurangi, 2013).
Struggling writers tend to lack motivation for writing, which is sometimes due to difficulty finding ideas for their topics; using pictures as prompts to stimulate writing is a popular way to evoke ideas, providing a good platform for descriptive writing (Ministry of Education, 1997, Cole, Muenz, Ouchi, Kaufman & Kaufman, 1997, Joshua, 2008).
Using the five senses as a foundation to including adjectives is an effective way to scaffolding students into thinking about adjectives in different ways, and provides a platform for organising and designing their stories (Ministry of Education, 1997; Joshua, 2008).
Dictating the topics students write about can hinder imagination and interest; considering the possibilities in terms of the outcomes I aimed for with the inquiry, I needed t ensure the images chosen what would spark motivation and interest for the diverse group (Cole et al, 1997).
During intervention
During intervention
Focusing the inquiry
Observations of the children during writing time showed me:
That four children struggled with dexterity when holding their pencil
Time was spent on forming letters on the page and ideas were often lost or forgotten
Children became frustrated in their ability to write often leading to inattentive behavior
Letters were often formed back to front despite repetitive practice in handwriting and phonics over a lengthy time period of two terms
Samples of writing showed me:
My wondering:
Could doing brain gym activities with a main focus on crossing the mid line help with letter formation as well as promote a secondary focus of increasing dexterity of the dominant hand to help with writing words
What research said about the benefits of
brain gym
Phase two teaching of the inquiry
My group
I had four focus children. All four children struggled with letter and word formation when writing. Child 'A' would write the letter 'a' and 'b' back to front. Child 'B' and 'C' and 'D' struggled with forming their letters so that their writing made sense and was readable.
Child A
Child B
Child C
Child D
Strategies for developing
Sherry Fink,
Amanda Fowler
Melissa Seumanu,
Lejani van Heerden
children's writing
278.461 Classroom Inquiry
Each inquiry focused on children's writing and how this could be developed, to gain better results from the individuals.

Pre-assessments were done by each of us to allow for insight into the focus of the inquiry.

For each inquiry Individual strategies were used according to the children's needs.

The method of triangulation of evidence through products, conversations and observations was used to inform each person by building up trends within each inquiry.

Interesting words highlighted in yellow
The Inquiry
In Conclusion
By applying the inquiry process, the inquiries could establish the needs of their group.
Along with education professionals and researchers, the inquirer could establish how they had to approach their group, in order to develop and extend their writing.
While some of the inquiries were more successful than others, the process allowed opportunities to reflect upon our own pedagogical practices.
As a result, different pedagogy styles and strategies were implemented.
Gill Connell (2013)

Crossing the midline helps to shift information from one side of the brain to the other. via the corpus callosum. When crossing the midline this shift happens frequently and is imperative for having fluency in processing information.

Brain gym also provides children with a focus on strengthening a dominant hand. Children can find writing more manageable when one hand takes the role of holding the pencil and the other accompanies by holding the paper still. If children are not accustomed to having a dominant hand then writing can become more complex as neither hand is strong due to taking an equal role in tasks.

Strengthening muscles in the hand and arm is important for helping with fine motor skills and dexterity in writing with a pencil. if the muscles are not strong then holding a pencil and writing with it can be a difficult task
Deborah A Stevens- Smith (2006)

In comparison to Gill connells research Stevens- Smith agrees on brain gym activities promoting writing ability and behaviour. It goes on to say that these activites do help in stimulating brain functionality laterality which is the ability to control the left and right hand side of the brain.

Bronwyn Maskell, Deborah Shapiro and Christopher Ridley (2004)

This research was done based on brain gym providing an intervention in strengthening a child's over hand throw. While each students throw did improve over time there was no evidence to say that brain gym had stimulated this result

Maskell, Shapiro and Ridely did comment that midline moviement needs more processing time than ipsilateral movement (one sided) and while brain gym has the potential to improve lateral and midline functionality there is no evidence to suggest it does.
Crossing the midline focus:

Simon says
Do your ears hang low
balloon tennis
Mini bean bags- passing across the midline to another person; passing it through the legs in a figure 8, throwing and catching with a partner
Driving a car around a figure 8
Drawing a bullseye
throwing to hit the bullseye
Brainwave song
Walking along a balance bean
Strengthening arms for better Dexterity:

Crab crawling
Monkey bars
Throwing bean bag, balls
Balloon tennis

Dominant hand focus:

Driving a car around a figure 8
balloon tennis
throwing bean bag and balls
drawing a bullseye with chalk
Through taking observations I could see how the children were improving in the brain gym activites in correlation with their writing. i used anecdotal notes each day to make comparisons. I began to see each of the four children improve within each activity through crossing the midline and dominant hand use.

By discussing with the children about what they were doing I was able to see how aware they were of their movements and their knowledge of right from left. Could they purposefully move their left hand across to touch their right ear. I could gauge how comfotable they were in their movement and whether they found the activites challenging
By collecting daily writing samples I was able to see how each child's writing was improving in correlation with the activites and whether there was an improvment happening over time
In relation to the children's writing the brain gym intervention was inconclusive. There were improvements to be seen within their writing over the period of time that the intervention was present but there were other factors that could have attributed to this; for example the teachers modeling prior to writing, daily practice of writing itself, teacher instruction and scaffolding during writing could all have been contributing to the improvements. I believe that there are benefits to brain gym exercise. I observed physical co ordination and confidence improve. Motor skills became more refined and this could have had a direct affect on the children's dexterity when writing but this was also inconclusive.
Next learning steps...
Now that the children's letter formation and writing structure have improved they need to work on in accordance with the schools writing matrix:
Forming ideas and feelings within their writing
Attempt simple sentences
Attempt to use Captital letters and full stops
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