Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Wild Readers!

The next book by Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer, is Reading in the Wild. It focuses on developing lifelong and independent readers who have internalized the skills and strategies and read for pleasure.

My challenge over the summer break is to look at how her approach would fit together with the approach of Daily 5 and Reader's Cafe as I have found these to sit well with the concepts contained in the Book Whisperer.

Research shows that reading for pleasure results in greater academic and financial success so we as teachers need to develop students with a lifelong love for reading or WILD readers.

Key characteristics seen in a WILD reader:
Finds time to read for pleasure
Models writing on the books being read
Participates in a reading community - real life or on-line
Has a preference within genres

Classrooms must be organised to encourage the reading habits of WILD readers and eliminate the counterfeit activities such as crosswords, reports and dioramas that guarantee that kids will avoid reading.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

In summary....

So what happened?
  • Learners are writing from home for fun - including my previous 'non-writers'
  • Writing levels are improving  

                  T1     T3
Below         15      6
At               6      12
Above        4        5
  • Learners are writing constructive rather than just social comments for one-another
  • Learners are aware of the succcess criteria and are using them to comment
  • Learners are improving their work using constructive comments
  • Learners ask for the opportunity to blog or comment
  • Relationships have been developed between schools due to blog commenting
What next steps?
  • Continue with individual student blogs
  • Always establish a blog buddy class outside the school
  • Reinforce the use of constructive comments rather than social
  • Spread individual student blogging throught out the school
  • Students use AKO approach and help other classes by giving constructive comments

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Learning for a purpose - make it authentic!

Mmm - let's take a risk!  Lets jump out of the teacher comfort zone.

In the process of gathering up lots of resources on persuasive writing including the True Story of the Wolf.... (thanks Pinterest) I stopped to think.  That is sometimes an important thing to do! Both think and STOP!

Part of the discussion on MLE sessions on Monday was that we as teachers tend to take over half of the inquiry process, dumping them in at the half way stage.  Well, with this approact to writing it would just be a series of 'Interesting' activities that had no connection to anything the kids were passionate about.  These activities would all be determined by the teacher.

My learners would have a need to be persuasive if they had something they wanted to have happen.  On my plan I have written in the initial writing sample and ID personal targets then it says.... Find out something they are passionate about that they want to make happen.

Of course I have one idea in mind.  Something they keep moaning about every time we cross the road to get to the hall.  We need a Zebra Crossing outside of school.  I wonder if that is what they will hook in to?

As a team we will then have to look at what we need to gather, who to contact, who to persuasde and how to persuade them?  If will really be an inquiry because I don't know - yet!

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Writing via Twitter

On Wednesdays we join in the Kidsedchat Twitter sessions with kids from all over New Zealand.  This week we tweeted about what makes a good teacher.  We made lots of great tweets and shared our KidsAKO workshops.  Check out who won 'Tweet of the Week'!

This is a way to get the children writing for a purpose, with a real audience and accountability to get it right.  We tend to prepare a tweet on a form, giving 140 character spaces, which can be edited before the session.  Any subsequent response tweets need to be written at the time and quickly checked by the teacher.  While we used #kidsedchatnz hashtag at the start, this keeps trending due to the number of children responding and was hit by spammers.  We now have a list and only the tweets from people on the list can be seen.  To join that list of #kidsedchatnz then visit this website and the co-ordinator will add you.  http://kidsedchatnz.blogspot.co.nz 

Slow Writing - Keep it short!

Here is another round of Slow Writing.  We are beginning to recognise what each section is - adverb, adjectives, connectives etc.  It helps when the motivation is really exciting - like Morris Lessmore, the augmented reality book where things come to life.  We had written about the storm of last week but now was the chance of using our prior learning and apply it to this story.

Our next step in this is to create anchor charts - explaining what each part of speech is and give a range of examples.

Tor:  (scribed by teacher)
I was siting down reading my book when all of a sudden the wind, which had started as a light breeze,  started blowing violently.  I pretended that nothing  was happening  but as quick as a boulder falling,  pages were blowing past me.  I wondered if I was heavy enough then suddenly I was hovering and then-blown away.  It felt like a dream and I was clinging onto a street post in the middle of a tornado.  Bicycles flew past.  Would I ever survive to see if I could rescue my books?

Morris was sitting on his veranda all of a sudden it started blowing.
Loudly the wind horribly threw Morris accross the veranda as he anxiously gets scared.
Howling, the wind sucked up Morris' books high into the sky.
Before long even the house was gone.
MORRIS was sad.
Will he survive this drama?

Morris Lessmore sat amongst piles of books like crooked towers getting lost in a story when the sky suddnenly turned black.  An angry howling wind whipped up the colourful books like they were a flock of flapping birds.

Dangerously caught by the wind, Morris’ hat danced merrily on his head.  While he was clutching his chair, the wind skidded him accross the deck making his eyes widen in fear.  Sucked right up!
Swirling around amongst books and houses, Morris wondered when or if the winds would ever let him go.

Friday, 6 September 2013

KidsAKO - amazing student led learning!

Wow - after hours of students determining their workshops, writing detailed plans, testing and adjusting their plans, the day of KidsAKO arrived.  A day of workshops where students taught students - AKO = teaching and learning.  Sadly it came with a freezing gale and torrential rain, which resulted in many of the outdoor workshops being cancelled.  On the positive side, it gave the students an opportunity to be A+ adaptable and live with disappointment, so being A+ accepting.

KidsAKO Smackdown Presentation:  all the workshops available, run mostly by students.
Movie of the day - as prepared by Jennie from Weedons School.

What impressed both Jennie (Teacher of Weedons Kowhai Conversation) and myself, was the adaptability of the students in dealing with both the terrible weather and over or under subscribed workshops.

Students stepped into a very different role.  I saw one of my usually very distracted boys check that all of his workshop members were settled into their Minecraft games and help them with issues before thinking of signing on himself.  The sense of responsibility and creative problem solving was evident when he turned the 'monsters' off on the server so the workshop members didn't keep getting killed!
People came prepared with all the materials and equipment they needed.  One even had a horse and helper ready and organised to come, but is happy to reschedule for better weather.

What blew me away was the reflection at the end of the day.  One of Jennie's girls identified the joy of running a workshop and the need to give the learners choice and an opportunity to follow their interests.  This is a lesson to all teachers - from the lips of a child!
Students who participated in the workshops identified the strengths of their leaders and thanked them for clear instructions, lots of help and exciting activities.
Another thrill was seeing our principal Liz attend a workshop for Minecraft Beginners run by a student.

KidsAKO has been a reminder to never forget how much these students have to teach both us and each other.  We need to let them lead their learning and use their interests as a platform.
I am really getting a clear picture that my job as a teacher is to support students as they make amazing things happen!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Evidence of success!

After two days of preparing for student led learning conversations and marking writing samples, I am seeing an exciting trend in writing levels.

Our Term 1 writing sample had 12 of 25 students achieving below the expected end-of-year levels. After marking the 26 samples, only three are below the expected end-of-year level.

It would be interesting to look for a connection between the number of student posts in relation to the increase in levels.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Ariki reflection Term 3

In scanning through all to posts on this blog to share my progress since our first presentation, it is clear how far we have come and how much we have achieved in regards to increasing both the qantity and quality of writing within the class!

Personal blogging has taken off and there is no better illustration of this than students posting 19 separate posts on their personal blogs in one day.  The perfect example is Josh D who would never have written at home for fun and struggled to write at school.  In the last 10 days, he has made five posts from home, often getting his elder brother to help him.  This elder brother is not keen on writing at school either but they are enjoying the challenge of his personal blog.  Josh D's Blog

This, and the discussion at the Ariki presentation, brings up a few next steps to focus on for the remainder of the term.

Student Blogging:
1.  Give students more time for personal blogging in class.
2.  Draw attention to and celebrate student blogging within the class.
3.  Identify needs and teach writing workshops through student blogs.
4.  Promote student writing through Twitter more aggressively to attract visitors and comments.
5.  Unpack student comments, revisit and edit using success criteria to make them more effective.

AKO: Student's teaching students:
1.  Get students to identify something they are good at.
2.  Unpack and structure a workshop for KidsAKO.
3.  Test and adapt student workshop planning.
4.  Unpack the success criteria of instructions and commment on Weedons writing.
5.  Interact with Weedons around writing challenges.

It is times like this morning that make me smile, when a reluctant writer comes in before school and asks if I have seen the post he put up on his blog from home last night - three days in a row!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Unpacking the Writing Process

One of my challenges was to unpack the Writing Process and provide resources on the blog for writers to follow.  Link

The resources have been linked and have been used in separation but the whole process needs to be embedded in daily writing.  This will require some 'free time' for students to work through the process and expectations of completed published pieces within a term.  

This will be my focus for the start of Term 3 and will support the work on Slow Writing.

The impact of blogging

The same blog from the UK that I referenced in the previous post regarding Slow Writing has made clear links between student blogging and progress in writing achievement.


Please click on the image for a closer view.

While these levels do not correspond to those we use in New Zealand, there is a significant suggestion that the greater the number of blog posts made by students, the greater the progress in writing achievement.

This perceived link between progress and post numbers might be worth tracking over time, although I still believe that quality of constructive input and personal responsibility for editing also play a role in writing progress.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Slow Writing

Amongst the blog focussed writing and editing, there still needs to be inspiring motivation and clear direct teaching.    Following a lead on using Angry Birds as a writing motivation, I have come across  something called Slow Writing.


Read about it on the blog above.  
Time is spent following this process, thinking carefully about every word used.

Sentence one must appeal to the senses.
Sentence two must use three adjectives.
Sentence three must start with an adverb.
Sentence four must contain a connective.
Sentence five must use exactly three words.
Sentence six must be a question.

This would require direct teaching about adjectives, adverbs, connectives and the use of the senses.  It would give regular use of these tools, short pieces of writing for easy editing and quick publication.  The motivating topic of focus could be writing within Angry Birds, eating sour worms, video clip responses and images.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Other educators' thoughts on the value of responding to student writing

The environment needs to be supportive and non-threatening.
The teacher needs to develop a community of writers.
An audience gives purpose for writing and a wider range of next step comments.
Comments should be specific and immediate.
Students can be trained to give effective comments - taking the entire responsibility for constructive comments off the teacher.
Evidence of achieved success criteria across a range of pieces can be tracked and recorded.
Blog posts are shorter pieces to edit and comment on but still give evidence of targets achieved and editing completed.
Concrete examples of next steps helps student editing.


Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Student bogs - personalised tutorials

The frequent posting of writing on personal student blogs allows for a record to be kept of student strengths, success criteria achieved and teacher conferencing.  Although the best input in a 1:1 conference, evidence is given from the text, examples given and the advice can be re-visited on multiple occasions. This can all be done any time of the day - which is good as they keep posting from home at any time of night!

While our goal is to widen writer audience to gain constructive comments, those of a teacher are also valuable and hopefully motivational to students.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Personal student blogging takes off!

On June 10th four children got their own student blogs then a further three became bloggers a couple of days later.  In four days they published 42 posts, received and made 110 comments and started 13 further drafts.  While this keeps me on my toes with checking and moderating, it is a phenomenal effort of self motivation within student writing.

Kidblog - please link here.

Every post needs to be moderated by the teacher and rather than proceeding through the editing process behind the scene, I am posting work before it is of publishing level.  This is to allow comments of the readers to suggest the next steps for editing.

Points to celebrate:
More writing is being done - even from home.
Children are actively supporting the next steps suggestions for editing through comments.
I am just waiting for the bloggers to go back an make the suggested changes!

Click on the images for a closer view.

This is the final edited copy of Lachie's writing.

The whistle blew.  We’re off.
Josh passed me the ball. I was running like a leopard. There was a mud puddle as big as a swimming pool.  I went right through it and then I slipped. The ball went into outer space.  I got back up and then the ball came down as fast as an asteroid. Luckily I caught  it,  then I ran off as fast as I could.  Suddenly another puddle was right in front of the try line  and I was thinking should I pass it. No don’t pass it just score it. So I ran,  I skidded and scored!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Access to blog posting

It takes too long to get the whole class through drafting, editing and publishing a piece and so we are in Week 4 without any writing having been published on the writing blog which defeats the whole purpose of encouraging effective comments for further editing.

Three students have started to use the Blogger Tool during Daily 5 Work on Writing and this is proving popular.

Introducing a small number of students to having their own blog will give opportunity for posting writing as a home-learning activity rather than e-mailing and getting the teacher to post it. This will allow them to write on-line and access their incomplete work from anywhere and anytime.

Small steps up the mountain....

Looking at that huge list of tasks could be daunting but I am working my way through a few of them.

Include a blog link to the success criteria of the current writing type:
These are now linked on a blog page and within the posts.  

Model more on the writing blog - steps, editing, process with teacher writing, photos of student drafting etc.
Examples of student work are posted with success highlighting, annotations and steps to take in the editing process.

My next steps in the process are:
1.  Add a blog page with effective commenting directly related to writing
2.  Provide more links to motivators and challenges for 'Writing Seeds' and free choice writing

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Action Research Reflection 8.5.13

I have continued in my journey by joining the New Zealand Literacy Group, constantly searching Twitter and blogs to gather ideas, further research papers and making connections by posting comments on other class blogs.  This is modelling what I would like others to do for my class and giving other students valuable feedback on their writing.

I am also pleased that I haven't bombarded the class with all the things I have been investigating over the holiday break but have started implementing them slowly.  Having said that - going through all the previous posts gave me over 15 action points.  If I am going to survive this next term, I might need to limit it to achieving only some of what is listed below.

Next steps:


  • Keep the teacher questions in mind when planning
  • Include a blog link to the success criteria of the current writing type 
  • Provide a 'page' on the blog with instructions on effective commenting
  • Compare samples of student comments over the year 
  • Tracking the type of comment to assess how many are constructive
  • Model more on the writing blog - steps, editing, process with teacher writing, photos of student drafting etc.
  • Break down the 'Writing Process' steps clearly on the blog
  • Provide more links to motivators and challenges for 'Writing Seeds' and free choice writing
  • Use the 'Writer Questions' as a constant prompt when writing
  • Recognise the difference between social and constructive commenting
  • Review writing comment success criteria and paste checklist in drafting books
  • List the next steps they could take in response to a constructive comment
Wider community
  • Run training sessions for students, parents and wider family on constructive comments
  • Teacher/students respond in kind with constructive comments and link to Blog URL 
  • Continue to promote work on this blog through teacher and class Twitter

Friday, 3 May 2013

Signing our blog away!

Over the holiday break I continued to look for ways to make connections with a wider audience for our blog.
1.  Signed up with Primary Blog Map
2.  Signed up for a blog link on Literacy Shed
3. Made connections with Weedons Kowhai Conversation, a Year 4/5 class do collaborate with our writing and make constructive comments
4.  Wrote constructive comments on 10-12 children's posts, leaving our class blog URL for return traffic

The results are...
We have been attached to the Literacy Shed - right near the top for people to visit.
We have a list of 26 questions to answer about earthquakes for a UK class of Year 4 students on Monday - a real audience and a real purpose - to help the UK class write their reports!

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Term 1 Action: Establishing a Writing Blog

While I had played around with a writing blog 2-3 years ago, it never really got off the ground.

This year Writing Rocks is our place to present work in progress, elicit constructive comments and re-work our writing in response to those comments.

We have been using this blog as a place to set writing challenges, attach resources and from which to promote our writing community.  It is from this blog that pieces ready for final publication are later posted to the Team Endeavour Blog.  Pieces are then converted into movies, e-books and other exciting publishing options.

  • Model more - steps, editing, process with teacher writing, photos of student drafting etc.
  • Break down the 'Writing Process' steps clearly
  • Provide more links to motivators and challenges for 'Writing Seeds' and free choice writing
  • Continue to promote work on this blog through teacher and class Twitter

Teaching and recognising constructive commenting

After being 'Focus Blog' for #comments4kids, we received a huge influx of viewers and comments.  While all of the comments boosted motivation and added sense of our audience, only a few comments were valuable for use in the editing process. These following comments were in response to Josephine's 100 word challenge blog post. 
  1. Dear Josephine,
    I am Thomas, one of the kids from QSI International School of Sarajevo. I like how you were so imaginary of the challenge, how the moon melted, and you slid into the gooey middle. I have also done something like that before, although you have to make a story using a specific group of words, not amount. The moon though, because of its G-Forces to Earth, most likely wouldn’t melt. Speaking of school work, I am doing a blog, http://classypotatoblog.weebly.com/ that I would think you would enjoy. One last thing; does the boy look like he fell in mud in the picture? Well, hope to hear back!
    Thomas B.
  2. This was a really good piece of writing! It was really imaginative and fun to read. If you want to see my school blog here's a link to it http://classycupcakeblog.weebly.com/
  3. Sarah

    I love your piece of writing. Very creative!
  4. Wow sounds like you had a good time. That was a great story and I liked the deatail
  5. My name is Jelena and I think it was fun and if you really want to go to the moon you should get a rocket to go there!!!
Loooove it! I especially like the part where you go to the moon. Very exciting! From Selma (QSI Sarajevo, 3rd grade)

The first comment from Thomas was the only one to discuss the actual writing rather than just a personal response to the content.  He discussed the use of words then challenged the writer to look more carefully at the child in the image and incorporate a description of their face.  Thomas also pointed out the scientific improbability of this piece, acknowledging the writer's imaginary approach.

  • Teach students to recognise the difference between social and constructive commenting
  • Review writing comment success criteria and paste checklist in drafting books
  • List the next steps a writer could take in response to a constructive comment

Student responses to writing posts should always be constructive and give the author ideas on how to improve their work.  This requires them to have an understanding of the success criteria for any type of writing and make an evaluative decision on the next steps they would take if it was their own work.  This can only strengthen the editing of their own writing as they have learned to recognise achieved success criteria and identify next steps learning.

Term 1 Action: Making connections

Another step I took was to sign up with #comments4kids in an attempt to increase the size of our audience.

Signing up for #comments 4kids
We were the 'Focus Blog' for Team Endeavour and Writing Rocks for two consecutive days.  The response was huge on both with the Endeavour Blog visitors increasing from an average of under 100 to a massive 371 and on Writing Rocks the audience increased from and average of 5 to totals of 70, 60 and 26 in the following days.  This also resulted in four new comment sources on Team Endeavour and 19 new comments on Writing Rocks.

Action: (after the holidays)

  • Analyse the source of our audience, the quality of the comments we received
  • Respond in kind with constructive comments and a link to Writing Rocks URL to encourage further interaction with what was mainly QSIS 10 Year Old Class  a class of international students in Sarajevo. 

Term 1 Action: Constructive Commenting

Whilst still researching, I did get started on a number of steps within the class writing challenge.

Teaching constructive commenting - with clear success criteria
We can confidently explain the success criteria of a blog comment but constructive comments given by students tend to only happen when there is a whole class focus and not when they are independently writing comments.

Comments before training:
18.2.13   We relly love the movie and we think we are in the movie the little aliens are cool. 

Comments during a class focus session:
5.3.13      Nice work Liam I like your simillie. Maybe next time you could put an alliteration like silent sleepy shadows. And what does he sound like when he speaks? By Phelix and Alfonso. 

7.3.13       Hi Chloe and Maggie Your writing makes me wonder where he is and why is he there? It really paints a picture in my mind.

2.4.13     Maggie, I really like the way that you used similes to describe the clock and the character in your story. It looks spooky as the clock face shimmers like the soft sky. You have also used adjectives to describe things like...glowing roof tiles, golden light. This makes the story interesting for people to read. Next time you could add another simile. joshua.g (Scribed by teacher)

Independent comments: (comment from home)
4.4.13  Well done lucy I read it to my sister and brother they both loved your shadow story. Daniella 

  • Further analysis of comments in groups and whole class.  
  • Learning about social vs. constructive comments.  
  • Comments success criteria checklist poster from the class wall copied and pasted in individual draft books for reference.

Research summary

I have spent a the whole of Term One searching blogs, research papers and twitter links regarding improving student writing by using an authentic blog audience.  I am still gathering information and will continue to add my findings as the year progresses.

There were some over-riding key points that emerge:

Teachers have to get connected:
Blogs are not an authentic audience if writing is only getting comments from the class teacher.  It was found that students put more effort into writing and commenting if they know there is an authentic audience from which they receive comments/replies to comments.  As a result, the teacher must get connected by building their own PLN so they can promote student writing to a wider audience for relevant and authentic responses.

  • Teacher must connect student writing to a wider audience using tools like twitter, facebook...
  • Join #comments4kids to access a wider audience
  • Teacher and students constructively comment on other blogs, leaving our URL for return visits
  • Join Quadblogging to make connections with three other classes from around the world
  • Join activities like the 100 Word Challenge that posts student writing for an enormous audience and comparisons to other student writing can be made
  • Training workshops for parents and wider whanau on constructive commenting and the value of family engagement
  • Tracking the number of comments and audience source over each month to assess audience

Langwitches Blog - Quadblogging reflection
EDUTOPIA - 10 Tips of becoming connected
Inquire Within - effect of Quadblogging on writing
Declairingit Blog - effect of Quadblogging on writing
Teaching with Tech - Authentic Audience Research Paper

Comments must be constructive rather than social:
Many of the comments received on writing posts are social rather than constructive and have no value to the editing of writing, only to the motivation of having an audience.  Constructive commenting must be modelled and scaffolded.


  • Include a link to the success criteria of that writing type so that comments can be precisie, directed and constructive.  This will be a learning point for some readers, a referral point for our writers and help improve the value of comments received
  • Run training sessions for students, parents and wider family on constructive comments
  • Provide a 'page' on the blog with instructions on effective commenting
  • Samples of student comments compared over the year 
  • Tracking the type of comment to assess how many are constructive
Medbury School - Success criteria posted with writing
Langwitches Blog - Blog comment rubric
Teaching with Tech - Authentic audience research paper

Donald Graves says that writing is a public act, meant to be shared with multiple audiences.
Howard Brown shows that the mechanics of writing improve when it is for publication.
(Cited in Teaching with Tech - Authentic audience research paper)

We are aiming for children who are:  
1.  Aware of their audience
2.  Taking an active role in the blogging community
3.  Show personal responsibility in the writing process


Blogging rubric

Blogging with students
Authentic audience
Engaging parents



Action Research Question

My action research this year is to take the next step on from last year which was to use ICT tools to motivate children to write.  I found that children were enjoying writing and but not willing to take the next step of editing to publication.

Research Question:

This research question fits within the shared beliefs of learning that we have within our school:

Learning will be Motivating and Fun: We will …
  • provide purposeful meaningful activities that capture the imagination of the learner
Learning will be Challenging: We will …
  • have high expectations for learners
  • challenge learners ideas and/or misconceptions within a supportive and respectful environment
Learning is Based on trusting relationships: We will ...
  • build self awareness
  • create partnerships which involve child, home and school working together towards clearly stated social and academic goals
Learning is Relevant, Clear and Purposeful: We will …
  • use success criteria to co-construct learning outcomes
Supported with Modelling, Exemplars and Assessments: We will …
  • provide time for self-reflection and assessment
This one question also opens up an army of smaller points to consider for both the teacher and the student.

Teacher questions:
Is the motivation stimulating with a driving purpose for the students?
Are the students clear on the success criteria?
Do they know their personal writing target, editing steps and can they independently use them?
How can I increase the community of our readers and encourage quality constructive comments for my writers, especially amongst our wider whanau and learning community?  
Are the students given support and time to re-edit pieces before and after posting on the blog?
Are our writers giving themselves and others reflective and constructive criticism based on the success criteria?
Do the students enjoy writing?
Are the students producing a body of quality written work?
Do the students have a sense of responsibility to their on-line learning community?

Student Questions:
Who am I writing for and how do I know they are really reading my writing?

 Is this writing ready for publishing - have I edited to an acceptable level?
Can I use the writing process independently?
What success criteria can my readers see in my writing or next steps do they suggest?
How have I improved my writing based on my reader's advice?
Can I help other writers by giving them constructive comments!

The beginning of a journey

In class we have been learning that a team shares their ideas, takes turns, helps one-another and listens to the ideas of others.  So if I am to be an active part of my PLN or personal learning network,  I need to stop just taking or lurking and start sharing.

This blog will be an opportunity to clarify my thoughts and act as a conscience to keep me accountable for the things I commit to doing.

Please feel free to comment in the form of encouragement but more importantly as a critical friend that challenges any misconceptions or bias.