Welcome to my blog! I'm Karen Belt, a teacher and leader of digital learning, working at Lynmore Primary School in Rotorua, New Zealand. I'm teaching in a Year 2 class using iPads to engage and motivate learners and improve student achievement. This blog documents my teaching journey and my learning processes with iPads in the classroom. I've proud of having been a member of the inaugural Manaiakalani Digital Teaching Academy(MDTA) program and last year a Spark Manaiakalani Innovative Teacher (MIT) and Manaiakalani Google Class OnAir teacher.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Inquiry Update: Term 2

DEFs of Writing:  Deliberate Teaching Acts, Engagement, Fun

My school inquiry topic supports my Spark MIT inquiry, ABCs of Writing and focuses more on the deliberate acts of my teaching to engage the learners in writing, which will in turn feed into my MIT inquiry. 

Recently I've explored some readings around motivating writers and how to scaffold my teaching to maximise the support for my learners.  Some of the points I've found particularly useful include:
  • "reading does not happen in a vacuum" - Ruttle (2004) - how can I incorporate more writing into my reading activities so that learners see there is a purpose to writing outside of the writing lesson
  • how to create a shared understanding of "what writing is for and why and how we engage it it" which can lead to learners writing with a "greater sense of purpose" - Ruttle (2004)

Teaching in class has focused on writing just a couple of sentences using a variety of gifted sentence beginnings and scaffolding the vocabulary to use through whole class discussions.  Originally I planned to use padlet.com to brainstorm these ideas so that learners would be able to revisit these word banks, however with more learners wanting to use Google Docs to write, they prefer having the vocabulary on the board.  I intend to return to using padlet.com now that I have the ability to display this throughout the classroom using my Chromecast and Apple TV so that learners are able to see the words from any part of the classroom.

Moving to Google Docs

Initially I had just my top writers using Google Docs, which of course, assists with spelling as long as the learner can identify initial sounds of the word.  Over the last few weeks of Term 1 and the first weeks of Term 2, I have had even my most reluctant writers expressing a want to use Google Docs for writing, and they seem more engaged when they do so.  In fact, last week, when we were not using iPads for the week, I found all learners reluctant to write and even having them produce one sentence was a real struggle.  Through giving learners the choice of using either Google Docs or pen/paper I find that they are more engaged and produce more quality writing.  Google Docs also makes the process of posting to Blogger more streamlined and more learners are completing and finishing during the writing session.

Where to Next

Carefully scaffolding the writing process and focusing on one thing to improve our sentence(s) each writing session is the most easily manageable DAOT in my class to date.  While it would be great to break into writing groups, I find it harder to manage the behaviours of my boys (particularly those that struggle with writing) when I do this.  Having no devices last week, many learners have got used to the process of drawing first, so it could be possible to have some of the learners drawing while I worked with a small group.  Some of my more willing writers are able to proceed independently but then require support via 1:1 or small group conferencing to take their writing to the next level.  While I have tried to instigate peer support, this has also proven problematic although I feel this could work better if I scaffolded in peers so they could see this in action (rather than just having it explained).  

Drawing on ideas from the readings and trialling the use of groups by having some learners focus on pictures while others start with writing may work.  I have also experienced success with using Explain Everything to record the sentence(s) and replay it as the learners find the words around the classroom to turn their ideas into writing - however this is not as easy to do when using Google Docs which many learners are keen to do.  

This afternoon, our inquiry groups met again to hear where everyone was at and look forward towards our goals for the coming term.  It is always interesting to discuss where you are at as through this discussion you have to verbalise challenges and obstacles as well as celebrate the successes.

Ruttle, Kate. What goes on inside my head when I’m writing? A case study of 8–9-year-old boys. 

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