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Albury School - Using e-learning to improve Achievement in Written Language. Reflective Summary

School Type

Albury is a small rural school, with a roll of 37 children, on State Highway 8 approximately 30 minutes from Timaru. It has two multi-level classes, Y0–3 and Y4–6.


Albury School is part of the Aoraki Rural Cluster which includes 10 other schools from South Canterbury and we are finishing our third and final year on the contract. All schools in the cluster have identified a ‘Teaching as Inquiry’ ICT focus for 2011. This inquiry question/focus has been developed with our peers and colleagues. Each school’s Inquiry focus was on how ICT tools, strategies and thinking could be used in teaching and learning to improve student achievement in a selected aspect of the curriculum.


At Albury our school wide focus was: How can we use ICT tools, strategies and thinking in our teaching and learning to improve student achievement in Written Language?

This focus was chosen because our assessment records showed that while most of our children were achieving at ‘their level’ some aspects of ‘very good or above the level writing’ was missing. Some of our children were quite reluctant writers, often lacking in ideas and only doing what was necessary to complete the task. Many of our children were ‘safe writers’. They are good spellers and saw ‘good’ writing as ‘correct writing’. They were unwilling to try new words, look for alternative words and in particular, use adjectives to add description to their writing.

The Junior class write regularly and are able to record their ideas, most with correct spelling of the words in Essential Lists 1 & 2, and some up to Level 4.

All children in the class have their own individual writing goals, which are recorded on their ‘writing mat’ as well as group goals. Learning intentions at this level are ‘remember to’ rather than success criteria.

A teaching friend in the UK sent a copy of ‘descriptive word box’ which was used to focus the children’s ideas on a particular area and words.

All the children were able to take a photo (digital camera) of some part of the school playground/environment.

The children were asked to write a sentence/statement describing their photo

Each day we ‘brainstormed’ a ‘word box’ and recorded all the adjectives we could think of that were related to that area, eg sounds – we went outside and listened to all noises and sounds we could hear

Each child wrote a statement for their photo using one of our adjectives.

When they had their 5 or 6 statements, the children were introduced to the Thesaurus on the computer and had to select 2 or more words that could be used to replace the adjectives in their statements.

Now they had to rewrite their description using the words they had selected from the Thesaurus.

Finally, a student/teacher conference to discuss, edit and enhance their writing for publishing and inclusion in their portfolio.

Impact on the students

Using the computer to develop and encourage writing has worked very well, the children really like the basic things a computer is capable of, saving and editing easily.

Using the Thesaurus has encouraged the children to try new words, selecting a new word is exciting, they are even using the book Thesaurus in the classroom.

Everyone is anxious for their turn on the computer (we have 3) so that they can write and publish their work.

While correctly writing the words they know is still important, the children like being able to get their ideas ‘on the screen’ then edit and correct.

Using more descriptive language is appearing in their ‘pencil and paper’ writing as well.

Next Steps

Continue to set specific goals for children’s writing, group and individual.

Allow children to ‘explore’ computer possibilities, tracked editing.

Pair Y3 with Y1 & 2 children to peer ‘teach’

Publish children’s work to share at school and at home.

Encourage more personal voice to show expression and understanding of how and why we write for an audience, particularly for Year 3 students who participate in the Annual Speech Competition at school.

Use Word Art and Clip Art to illustrate and enhance published writing.