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Motivating Students to Write. Reflective Summary - Pleasant Point Primary School

School type

Pleasant Point Primary is a rural school, of approximately 240 students, 20 minutes inland from Timaru. There are 10 classrooms from New Entrant to Year 8.

Cluster

Pleasant Point Primary is the lead school of the Aoraki Rural Cluster, along with 10 other schools from the South Canterbury region.  All teachers in the cluster schools conducted a "Teaching as Inquiry" for their 2011 ICT PLD.

Each school's inquiry question focused on how ICT tools, strategies and thinking could be used in teaching and learning to improve student achievement in a chosen aspect of learning.  Lead teachers used the focus to complete a "Teaching as Inquiry" while guiding their colleagues through the process.

Intentions

The inquiry focus question for Pleasant Point Primary was “How can we use ICT tools, strategies and thinking in our teaching and learning to improve student achievement in writing?”

Our inital impression from staff discussions was that students motivation to write was low, and that many of them did not see writing as an enjoyable part of the school day. As a school, we administered the 2008 NEMP Writing attitude survey. The results confirmed our impression, and additionally indicated that students perceived writing to be solely (or largely) a process of mastering surface features. They generally thought of themselves as good writers, but were not able to articulate what they did well, or what they needed to do to improve. 
 
At a lead teachers meeting, our faciliator shared a website that allowed students to create a monster. I thought that this would serve as motivation for my students to write, and would allow for the use of descriptive language, which has been a ongoing focus in my class. When I went to start the project, I was frustrated to find that the url had "expired" and the website was no where to be found. Fortunately, I was aware of the "Build Your Wild Self" website, and made the decision to substitute that.
Personally, I wanted to work on my modelling, and also to provide the students the experience of working on a piece of writing over several days. They would be required to use descriptive language and also tell a story that had a beginning, middle and end. In addition, I wanted to increase my Year 2/3 students independence and ICT skills. I decided that I would teach one child to use the website, and thereafter each would teach the next student on the list.

 Impact on the students

The students were very taken both with the Build Your Wild Self website and the chance to act as "Teacher" for another student. When we discussed the pictures initally, they fixated on the strange appearance of their creatures. We regrouped, and I asked them to imagine Mr Marshall (the principal) coming to tell us that we had a new student. We talked about how we would feel, how the new student might feel, and what we would have to do to make him welcome. Then I revealed that the new student was, in fact a "Wild Self" creation. We talked about how that would change our feelings, and what challenges it might provide. I modelled how this first section of the story might work. The students then wrote the opening to their stories. We followed this process over three subsequent days, with students sharing with the class, in pairs, and in conferences with me as their work grew.
All students were able to successfully complete a piece of writing. For many of them, it was the best writing that they have completed this year. They are proud of what they have accomplished and look forward to sharing this work with their families.
 
Next Steps
The work will be published on the computer by the teacher for sharing on our Ultranet page. The hard copy will feature in the students' sample books at the end of the term.
My teaching will continue to focus on descriptive language and ongoing editing. I will look for additional opportunities to allow my students to teach each other new skills.