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Talking for Success

Hamilton East School Action Research

Note: There has been a change of facilitator from Linda Woolhouse/Pippa Wright to Sheryl Nagels. Therefore I (Sheryl) am rewriting this Action Research Plan as part of the process to take ownership of this responsibility and move it forward. See below for my reflection on what has happened so far.

Hamilton East School is an inner-city multi-cultural school. At HES we strongly believe that oral language is the foundation of all literacy. Our community is made up of over 40% Maori plus a huge number of other cultures - Polynesian, Middle Eastern, Asian, Columbian. Therefore we have many ESOL students as well as many ELL students - New Zealand born students who’s parents speak another language at home and New Zealand students with low oral language.  Supporting oral language development is a strong focus of the Hamilton East School Curriculum.

HES Think Tank: Sheryl Nagels, Hine Mete, Anna Gerritsen, Heather Nicholson

Key Question: Does the opportunity to hear themselves speak, result in self reflection and improvement of oral language in ELL students?

Research Questions:
1. Does giving students a real voice and authentic audience, increase engagement in literacy?
2. How will these recordings impact on Teachers’ ability to form an OTJ?
3. Does regular use of recording tools promote reflection on oral language skills?

How will we find out what is happening at present?
Data Collection
1. Identify a small group (2-5) ELL students in your class.
2. Administer an ROL. (student achievement data)
3. Record a conversation with the child around a focus topic - i.e. a piece of writing. Discuss motivation process, content and opinion/reflection with them. (student voice)
4. Provide a brief summary of your current oral language teaching practises. Has any recording been done previously? How often and for what purpose?

Current Research
Each TT member to research and share one finding on current practise/pedagogy on this topic.

Professional Reading
TT members to read research located.

Action Plan

  Term 2, 2011 Term 3, 2011 Term 4, 2011
Data collected and collated by Sheryl by Week 6   End of year data Week 6
Implementation Plan for process by each TT member established and underway, Week 7 Continue implementation. Fine tuning of process. Continue implementation.
Reflection Reflective journal updated Week 6,8,10. Reflective journal updates weeks 3,6,9. Reflective journals Weeks 2, 6.
Think Tank Meetings Week 6
Set readings.
Week 2
Implementation issues.
Feedback on readings.
TT reflection and suggestions for ‘next steps’.

Each Think Tank member needs to develop an implemenation plan as to how they are going to do this in their class. The goal is for it to not be and ‘add on’ but to align with literacy/technology practices in the classroom with special attention given to data collection and frequency for the target group. Which technologies will work best and trouble shooting these before beginning. Any resources/equipment to support implementation? Sheryl to provide support in setting up implementation processes.

Document findings regularly using reflective journal set up in Google Docs.
Sheryl to collect copy of all data - ROL/conversations/recordings to collate in a central place.
Folder set up within Teachers Shared on school network to facilitate this.
Sheryl to put reflections on VLN.

Other things to consider...
Evidence - be careful not to always be achievement based - student reflection, rubric based - break down all small steps to get to next level.
Triangulation of data - achievement data, student voice/reflection/ OTJ.
Motivation and engagement.
Creation of rubric for student self evaluation using English exemplars/ELL resource.

Reflection …
what has happened so far?
Taking over as Facilitator in Term 2, 2011, I found that the beginning data needed to record progress against  was not available to me. This was due to the previous facilitator leaving and not passing this data on and/or loss of data with a major server upgrade at school. Possibly data was not accurately recorded so there was a need to return to the baseline and refocus.
On reflection with the team, I felt that the Action Research sat outside of everyday classroom practice and to ensure success it needed to be made more mainstream.
The team met and we thought the key question was still of value and would like to ‘begin again’.
This is not to say that nothing has been happening. Team members spent time troubleshooting equipment and software. During the middle of all this, in an attempt to access an authentic audience, the school had moved towards whole school class blogs.  We felt, from listening to our students, that our community was not accessing students work via our current LMS and that although it had a blog function, we would prefer to use a common blogging tool to make ourselves more visible. Blogger was not then available within our school Google Apps account, so class blogs were set up outside of that account with Blogger.
Teachers and students were very ready for this. Everyone found it easier to use than the LMS and much more accessible. Many staff although initially hesitant at having to do ‘something new’, found it much more user friendly and rewarding for the amount of time previously spent formatting work on the LMS.  Students were engaged by the ability to easily see what other classes were doing on their blog and posting comments.
There has been discussion around whether senior students could have individual blogs but it has been decided that for now, we will focus on class blogs. Links have been set up from the LMS so students can access the blogs to read without having New Post options available to them. In senior classrooms, teachers can make the Dashboard available to students and allow them to comment and post in a managed environment. Learning how to use and comment on a blog appropriately needs to be established. Our LMS has an ePortfolio section which Linda was keen that we should begin using, but we have decided to focus on class blogs with all they can add to learning and engagement for now and explore ePortfolio options for individual students once blogging is secure.
I am aware of the need to put sustainability practices in place to maintain the initial enthusiam people have around class blogs. Using these blogs as a motivation for students to share their writing in an oral format is one of these practices.


An independent programme of recording and listening was set up in three classrooms, two middle school and one senior class. The topic came out of the class programme and was usually something there had already been class discussion around. Students had a roster system to take their turn to share their idea on the topic i.e. what makes a healthy lunch? How to be a good friend?  Students recorded themselves using Photobooth or iMovie and then watched and listened to themselves. They then had a little self evaluation form to complete – what they had done well, what they need to improve on, what their goal for next time was. Students reviewed these before their next recording session and at times the whole class would watch and review students recordings.

Research Questions: (as above)
1. Does giving students a real voice and authentic audience increase engagement in literacy?

All students in the class participated and were highly motivated and engaged in the process.

2. How will these recordings impact on Teachers’ ability to form an OTJ?

Teachers were able to observe students recording themselves as well as review recordings as further evidence on which to base OTJs.


3. Does regular use of recording tools promote reflection on oral language skills?

Yes. Initially the students felt they were learning about how to use a computer, how to use the software – record themselves, replay etc. Then the focus moved to features such as volume, looking at the camera etc. It was only after the process was entrenched into the class programme that students came to understand it was ‘all about the talking’. Whole class reflection with pertinent questions was an essential part of the development of this understanding.



Oral language recorded was very much ‘off the cuff’ speech. It was not based on prior writing but was meant to reflect conversation – record as if you are speaking to an audience. We came to understand that one of our goals was to support conversational oral language as many of our students speak and respond in single words or short phrases rather than full sentences. The OTJ of all teachers involved was that there was a marked increase in confidence in speaking up to the group, participating in class discussions as a result of this programme. All teachers would want to use these tools to support oral language programmes in their classrooms again.

ROL data was recorded before and after implementation of the programme on the low oral language students who were being monitored. All showed increases in their ROL score over a six month period. As there was no control group and improvement would be expected anyway, it is hard to say exactly how much the increase was due to the programme. 

Recording Process

Student Reflection



  • Jo Wilson

    Hi Sheryl

    Thanks for sharing this reflection on the framework of  Talking for Success. I could  see from the onset of your reflection that considerable thought  and planning is underpinning this Action Research project.

    As this reflection is for a national audience can you provide an outline of your school context and some back ground information as to why you chose this particular focus.

    Will look forward to seeing this programme in action when I visit