Monday, 17 July 2017

My inquiry: the research design of my study

As discussed previously, my dissertation/inquiry this year is about the effect of integrated reading and writing instruction on students understanding of author's purpose.  It is my suspicion that if students are able to identify and articulate why authors have chosen to use specific structures and language features to communicate their purpose, then students could transfer and apply this knowledge in their own writing.  Initial data gathered from writing samples and student work indicated that students did not have a strong enough understanding of the structures and features used for specific purposes.

Action Research

My action research will gather quantitative data relating to effectiveness of an integrated reading and writing approach. As the integrated reading-writing instruction will be standard classroom practice, all students will be involved in the intervention.

After looking into the current literature and studies supporting integrated reading and writing and considering the needs of my learners, I have created an intervention.  The intervention period has begun, and will continue until the end of term three.  In order to determine whether the integrated instruction will make a difference, I have taken a number of measures which will allow me to compare students writing samples and awareness of author's purpose before and after the intervention.  A survey containing a number of tasks was given prior to the intervention period. Writing samples were also collected.  The samples were graded against a rubric, which specifically assesses whether students have deliberately chosen structures and features appropriate to their given purpose. 

During the intervention period, I will have detailed lesson plans. I will also keep a diary which reflects deeply on the student's ability to identify the structure and features author's use to convey their purpose, as well as their ability to  transfer this knowledge and apply it in their own writing. I will also have informal check-ins, gauge students understanding of the learning during the experiment. These will be audio recorded and transcribed.

My inquiry: integrated reading and writing instruction

Does integrated reading and writing instruction affect year 6 and 7 Maori and Pasifika students understanding of author's purpose in writing?

This year I have merged my teacher inquiry with my dissertation. I have chosen to investigate the effectiveness of integrated reading and writing instruction, with a focus on understanding the author's 'purpose' of writing. 

Why have I chosen this?

I have chosen this topic for the a number of reasons. Current data from my school suggests there is a need for some kind of change in the way we deliver reading and writing lessons. Also, many theoretical frameworks support the use of integrated reading and writing instruction. The theoretical framework has also led to numerous studies that have found that integrated reading and writing instruction can lead to improved outcomes for some learners (Aminzadeh & Sadat Booyeh, 2015; Cho & Brutt-Griffler, 2015; Corden, 2007; Fitzgerald & Shanahan, 2000;  Griffith, 2010; Jesson, McNaughton & Parr, 2011). As the integrated reading and writing instruction is a broad topic, I chose to narrow my research and focus on author's purpose.

Underachievement in writing

In Aotearoa, Maori and Pasifika students are underperforming in writing (Amituanai-Toloa, McNaughton, Lai & Airini, 2009).  The data for students achievement in writing in my classroom  mirrors the trend in New Zealand of Maori and Pasifika learners underachievement. Therefore, a change in the way writing is taught is necessary.

What the literature says 

Integrated reading and writing instruction is supported by the theoretical conceptualisations about the similarities in knowledge and processes involved in reading and writing. Prior to the 1980s, reading and writing were taught independently of each other.  At that time, reading was believed to be a receptive skill, and writing a productive skill (Tierney & Shanahan, 1991).   In addition, developmental ‘readiness’ theories also played a role in justifying the separation of reading and writing. Educators had believed that writing was dependent on the previous attainment of reading skills (Fitzgerald & Shanahan, 2000). The receptive skill of reading was posited as being the basic, foundational skill which had to be mastered before acquiring writing skills (Shanahan, MacArthur, Graham & Fitzgerald, 2006). Educators were fearful of teaching writing prematurely, as it was thought to be was ineffective, perhaps even harmful (Fitzgerald & Shanahan, 2000). Therefore, educators would not teach writing skills until students had mastered reading skills. 

During the 1980s, the traditional theory of reading and writing as separate domains was challenged. Tierney and Pearson (1983) presented the argument that both reading and writing involves the processes creating meaning and composing texts, thus questioning the notion of reading as a passive skill.  Readers create meaning through considering the author’s purpose, information in the text and their own knowledge and experiences (Lee & Schallert, 2015; Tienery & Pearson, 1983; Wittrock, 1983). Essentially, readers are composing a text in their minds in an effort to create meaning from these cues (Lee & Schallert, 2015). Writers also create meaning through using their experiences, considering their audience’s prior knowledge and experiences and what they want their readers to think or do (Tierney & Pearson, 1983; Wittrock, 1983). Therefore, readers and writers use the same cues to construct meaning and compose texts.

The 1980s also marked the new understanding of shared cognitive processes involved in both discourses. There are four fundamental types of knowledge that readers and writers must use; metaknowledge, domain knowledge, knowledge about universal text formats, and procedural knowledge (Lee & Schallert, 2015). Understanding the shared knowledge between reading and writing allowed educators to better understand how an integrated reading and writing approach would strengthen students understandings in both domains.

What previous studies have shown 

Many studies have concluded that integrating reading and writing can lead to improved outcomes for learners (Aminzadeh & Sadat Booyeh, 2015; Cho & Brutt-Griffler, 2015; Corden, 2007; Fitzgerald & Shanahan, 2000;  Griffith, 2010; Jesson, McNaughton & Parr, 2011).  An integrated reading and writing approach allows learners to transfer their knowledge of reading strategies to enhance their writing skills.  

Many studies have found integrated instruction leads to improved outcomes for ELL and tertiary students (Cho & Brutt-Griffler, 2015; Plakans, 2008; Sadat Booyeh, 2015). However, there is little action research or experimental studies that inquire into the effect the approach has on English speaking learners in primary school.  Therefore, more research is needed in order to discover the impact on English speaking learners in primary school contexts.

Additionally, there has been little inquiry into reading and writing integration for a low decile learners in New Zealand.  In saying this, Jesson, McNaughton and Parr’s (2011) case study uncovered the elements of effective teaching of integrated reading and writing programmes. Their case study involved an in-depth, descriptive look into four teachers who had been recognised as ‘effective teachers of writing’ (Jesson et al., 2011). While the study was insightful, I believe it would be useful to have a study of an action research design, to further discover the effect of integrated reading and writing instruction. The 'intervention' period of the action research will allow me to discover whether integrated reading and writing will have an effect on my students achievement in writing.

Author's Purpose

Upon examining students writing samples, I noticed that there is no evidence of deliberate use of structures and features when writing texts for a purpose. I hypothesize that strengthening students understanding of 'author's purpose', in both reading and writing, will improve their writing.  It is my thinking that if a student is able to identify the structures and features authors use to communicate their purpose, then they will be able to transfer this knowledge when they are writing their own texts.

Summing it up

Given the current data on underachievement in writing, it seems a change the way that writing is taught in my classroom is necessary.  Literature and current research into the effect of integrated reading and writing instruction suggest it can improve students achievement in writing. I endeavour to discover whether it will have an impact on year 6 and 7 Maori and Pasifika learners, as previous research has not been aimed at this particular demographic.


Aminzadeh, R., & Booyeh, Z. S. The Comparative Effect of Reading-to-Write and Writing-Only Tasks on the Improvement of EFL Learners’ Writing Ability.

Amituanai-Toloa, M., McNaughton, S., Lai, M. K., & Airini (2009). Ua aoina le manogi o le lolo: Pasifika schooling improvement –  final report. Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland UniServices Limited.

Cho, H., & Brutt-Griffler, J. (2015). Integrated reading and writing: A case of Korean English language learners. Reading in a Foreign Language, 27(2), 242.

Fitzgerald, J., & Shanahan, T. (2000). Reading and writing relations and their development. Educational Psychologist, 35(1), 39-50. 

Griffith, R. R., PhD. (2010). Students learn to read like writers: A framework for teachers of writing. Reading Horizons, 50(1), 49-66. Retrieved from

Jesson, R., McNaughton, S., & Parr, J. M. (2011). Drawing on intertextuality in culturally diverse classrooms: Implications for transfer of literacy knowledge. English Teaching, 10(2), 65.

Lee, J. , & Schallert, D. L. (2015). Exploring the Reading–Writing Connection: A Yearlong Classroom‐Based Experimental Study of Middle School Students Developing Literacy in a New Language.  Reading Research Quarterly, 51(2), 143–164.doi:10.1002/rrq.132

Plakans, L. (2008). Comparing composing processes in writing-only and reading-to-write test tasks. Assessing Writing, 13(2), 111-129. Retrieved from

Tierney, R.J., & Shanahan, T. (1991). Research on the reading–writing relationship: Interactions, transactions, and outcomes. In R.Barr, M.L.Kamil, P.Mosenthal, & P.D.Pearson (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. 2, pp. 246–280). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum

Tierney, R. J., & Pearson, P. D. (1983). Toward a composing model of reading. Language arts, 60(5), 568-580.

Wittrock, M. C. (1983). Writing and the teaching of reading. Language Arts, 60(5), 600-606.

Friday, 7 July 2017

What my kids think about using digital tools

As term two draws to a close, it has been a great opportunity to gather feedback from my students. Along with my surveys about my teaching, I also wanted to find out my classes perspective on using digital tools.  This has been a massive change compared to how they had learnt in their previous classrooms.  I use digital tools on a daily basis, and not just Google Apps for Education (such as Docs, Drawing, Slides).  While I love teaching using digital tools, I wanted to know what my kids actually thought about it.

Digital tools vs. traditional Think-Pair-Share

I have spoken previously about the affordances of digital tools, compared to the traditional and verbal Think-Pair-Share approach. I have always believed that they increase engagement and participation, as they help students to feel comfortable and willing to share their ideas.  I also believe the quality of responses is higher. My own opinion on digital tools vs traditional T-P-S proved to be the same as my learners.  I posed the question: Do you prefer sharing ideas verbally, or with digital tools? Out of the 16 students who took part in the survey, 15 said they preferred digital tools, while one student said he liked both.

Here is what they had to say about why they prefer digital tools:

Because it is better

Because it's easy to use and it's really fun

because it  is faster and because half of the class don't even share there ideas verbally.

Because we can share our ideas and  I like the word clouds.

Because I can see everyone answer.

because I don't like writing on paper

because it easy and a little bit fast.

Sometimes I like doing it on both.

Because it helps us with our learning 

I like Nearpod because it helps us answer questions on what we learn and you get to write as many words as you can.

because it's good for us to learn 

I like nearpod because it shows your Ideas on the screen.

I like using it because we share our ideas with the whole class.

I like mentimeter because It has lots of things and its fun.

Because you can write more sentences.

Creating DLOs

As Glen Innes School is a part of the Manaiakalani cluster, our pedagogy is Learn, Create, Share.  I wanted to focus on the 'create' aspect, and discover how my students really felt about it. After students have learnt something, they use any app they like to create a 'Digital Learning Object' (DLO).

Essentially, a DLO is something that is created by the student to show their understanding.  A way that it is explained to students is that it can be used to teach somebody else.  Therefore, a DLO needs to be clear and easy to understand.

Again, I used a likert scale to find out whether they liked creating DLOs for reading, writing and maths. I wasn't surprised with the responses I received:

Overall, students enjoy creating DLOs to show their learning

It is pretty clear that my learners love to create DLOs about maths.  My class was relatively new to the concept of creating a DLO, so I initially focussed on creating DLOs in maths.  Now that they are experienced with creating DLOs for maths, my class absolutely loves it.  They are always engaged, and their DLOs are becoming more detailed and articulate.

While the response towards creating DLOs for writing and reading is still mostly positive, there are students who either don't like it, or feel impartial.  In an effort to boost their enthusiasm, I am working on introducing new tools for learners to use. I wonder whether their lack of exposure to creating DLOs in reading and writing has contributed to some of the students not enjoying it.  I am hoping that over time the students will enjoy creating DLOs in reading and writing as much as they do in maths. 

Students perspective on using digital tools

I used likert scales to determine how students felt about the commonly used digital tools in our classroom. Here are the results:

Class favourites

The most common favourite digital app was Kahoot, followed by Google Apps (Docs, Drawings and Slides) and Canva.  Some students chose more than one favourite, which is why there is more than 16 responses. To help make sure these really are my students favourites, next time I would list all the digital tools we have used to help learners pick a favourite. There is a possibility that the students choose these apps because they were spoken about and used in the last two weeks. 

Here is what they had to say about their favourite apps and why...

Read theory because when you are done read you can answer the questions 

google doc,google drawing,and more

Collaborative Problem solving

Cause it's fun playing on kahot! and plus learning from you  mistake.

kahoot because it cool

Kahoot, quizizz and canva

Quizzes because you don't have to wait for the teacher to press Next like on Kahoot. 

Canva because you can create your own posters 

I like kahoot because it's fun and it is also helpful

I like using them for work because they're easy to use.

I like DLO because it helps us what we did for maths.

Kahoot because we want to win so it motivates us to read the question carefully and be fast to answer it. Nearpod because I think it helps me understand that it doesn't matter if I get a question wrong, because I'm not the only one who got it wrong. Canva because I get to be creative and make inforgraphics.

youtube and because you can play music and a movie

I like mentimeter because its fun 

Kahoot because you can play games and learning games.


  • When students mentioned DLOs I counted this as GAFE because they mostly use Google Drawings and Slides to show their learning.
  • I have copied and pasted the responses exactly how they were written - hence the typos and grammar issues.

Least favourites

Here are my students responses to their least favourite digital tools:

ANSWERGARDEN because it doesn't let us write lots 


nothing I like all the digital apps that we use.


Socrative because it dose not have funny meme's like quizizz.

Kahoot because you have to wait for the teacher to press Next.

Answer garden because you can only use 40 letters or 20

Mentimeter because I don't like how it is created. 

none because I like them all.

I don't have one.


play store because you can download games 

Answer garden all you got to do is write the answer for the question and the words get bigger  

Answergarden because you can only write like 40-60 letters

While the majority of students said they don't have a least favourite digital tool, the next most common response was AnswerGarden.  I think this is interesting because their reasons is one of the reasons why I personally like AnswerGarden.  Because of the word limit, AnswerGarden forces respondents to be succinct.  This can be a challenge for students.

Summing it up

It is great to see that the response to digital tools is mostly positive.  Digital tools help to increase student engagement, as they are more willing to share ideas and collaborate on tasks. My survey has also shown that the class prefers using digital tools over traditional verbal methods of sharing and collaboration.  I will continue to expose my learners to new and exciting digital tools, as I think this will help them to become more comfortable with using them.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Mid-year reflection

Where has the time gone?! It is crazy to think that we are half-way through the school year.  With the end of term two quickly approaching, it has been a good time to reflect on how it has been going.  

I created a Google Form to gain insight into the feelings and opinions of my learners.  I stressed the importance of my students taking their time and answering the questions as honestly as possible.  I explained that the purpose of the survey was to see what was working well in room six and what I could do better. It was very important that my kids felt comfortable to be completely honest. There is always room for improvement! 

The feedback I received was really heart-warming.  When asked the question Do you like being in room 6? the students had to rate between 1 and 5 (1 being no, and 5 being yes).  It was awesome to see that the general consensus was that my students enjoyed being in the class.  This question was followed by Why do you/ do you NOT like being in room 6? I did this because I wanted to know why my students liked or didn't like being in room 6.

Here are some of their responses: 

 I like being ing room 6 because we always learn new stuff everyday.

Because it is cool and I got a cool teacher...

I like being in room 6 because I have lots of friends and I learn more

It depends on what we do.

I do like being in room 6 because miss tries to make learning fun. She makes it so that we want to learn and no one is forcing us to learn.

We learn a lot of things 

because my teachers kind and I learn lots of things

I like room 6 because Miss D makes learning fun 

because we hardly get free time

I like room 6 because we can talk about our feeling about each other. Room 6 is the best classroom ever. Give things a go. 

I like being in Rm6 because I got a awesome teacher that helps me learn and achieve my goals now and for the future. 

I am so glad that my learners feel that learning is fun in room 6.  This is something I am always trying to keep in mind when planning. At the start of the year, most of my learners were well below national standard. This had meant that I have needed to be creative in my approach to teaching the class. I had wanted my class to be engaged and to enjoy learning. I love that many of my students feel they are learning heaps in my class. 

Another firm belief I have is that in order for kids to learn, they need to feel happy and safe (because who wants to learn in a class where they are miserable and uncomfortable?). I think the responses clearly show that I have created a safe, happy and positive classroom environment. This makes me incredibly happy. It is something I have continuously worked on throughout the year.  Whenever the wheels started to fall off, we would revisit the key ideas of discipline, collaboration and kindness. We also celebrate shift and small victories. I have chosen to focus on shift rather than national standards, and as a result I have seen my students confidence and self-efficacy rise. I believe these things have made a huge impact on my students - academically, socially and emotionally.

The responses in blue are the two students who rated 3 on the first question.  The student that said it depends on what he does is one of my top students.  This makes me wonder whether he is possibly bored/not challenged enough.  I am going to have a discussion with him so I can figure out what he would like from me.

Reading, writing and maths in room 6

I wanted to discover my students attitudes towards reading, writing and maths.  I asked them a series of questions, with likert scales and open-ended questions. As you can see, the majority of my class loves maths, and feels okay about reading and writing.  

I also asked my learners what they liked, didn't like and what I could do differently for reading, writing and maths.  The responses were mostly positive.  The main negatives I got was that they hate sitting on the floor for maths, and a lot of my students don't really like writing.  With respect to writing, I think I need to be a bit more innovative.

Here is the link to the survey results.

What's working well

  • Students feel safe and happy in room 6
  • Room 6 loves learning maths
  • lots of accelerated shift in achievement - yay!
  • An increase in self-efficacy and confidence in students learning and ability
  • Students enjoy using digital tools to help them learn (blog post coming soon)

What's next?

From the feedback I have recieved from my class I have formulated a few questions which will help to refine and improve my teaching

  • How can I use digital tools to increase engagement and understanding in writing?
  • How can I help to excite my learners about reading and writing? 
  • How can I engage one of my high achievers?
  • How can I continue to accelerate my learners achievement in maths?
  • How can I make sure that my use of digital tools and lessons are deliberate and effective? 

The past two terms have been challenging but so incredibly rewarding.  It is so great to be a part of my learners growth and development.  We have come a long way from day one and I am very proud of the effort that every student has put into their learning.  I am looking forward to seeing what the next half of the year brings!

Parting words from my learners...

Finish this sentence: I want Miss D to know....

I want to do basketball sometimes when we go out for PE.

that I love being in her class

that we like spending time with Miss D

"that I want to do more fitness and I don't like writing. sorry miss"

do fitness in the morning 

i don't wanna move classes because i like it in this class

How I love this class

What I am doing

i hate writing

she is the best teacher

That she is the best teacher ever off my life.

I want Miss D to know that she is the best and funny teacher I've ever had.

I want Miss D to know that no matter what she picks for next term for the class I support her 100%.

Battle of the Presentation Apps: Mentimeter vs Nearpod

I have been using Nearpod and Mentimeter religiously since I discovered them earlier in the year. At first, I leaned more towards Nearpod, mainly because it is free.  Unfortunately, the free version of Mentimeter only allows for up to 3 questions. Because of this, Nearpod became my first port of call.  However, I loved the word-cloud and scale features.

Recently I bit the bullet and a purchased a one-year subscription for Mentimeter. I am so glad that I did.  Now I feel like I can more accurately compare Mentimeter and Nearpod.  These are my thoughts about what sets Mentimeter and Nearpod apart from each other.


Scale questions 

You can use this scale questions to gauge opinions or understandings of students. Mentimeter displays an average score (the circle) as well as the distribution of votes (just above the line). I find this to be a great visual way to show students responses.

Word clouds

I am a big fan of word clouds.  While I will always love AnswerGarden, I also love that Mentimeter also has a word cloud feature. It became really frustrating when I would create a presentation in Nearpod, but would really want to have a word cloud.  Word clouds are useful when you want learners to share and notice commonalities amongst student responses.


Downloaded report from Nearpod... not the greatest for some purposes
This is ultimately what drove me to purchase Mentimeter.  Sometimes we would have amazing lessons using Nearpod, but I wouldn't be able to capture those moments.  If I didn't take a screenshot of the results right then and there, the responses would be lost.  You can download a report, however it mostly displays participation rates.  The reports are not something you could use as a display or share with your class for later reference.

With Mentimeter, you can download each activity as a jpeg. You can also download the entire presentation as an Excel document or a PDF  I have often created shared folders in Google with all the downloaded jpegs from our lesson.  This has been helpful as this makes the learning rewindable.  Students are able to revisit the learning and see their responses. Students can also enter the code at a later date, and submit results.


Draw it

Draw it is an activity where students can annotate an image you upload.  Students can highlight, draw and add text.  I have found this to be very useful in both writing and math activities.  I use it for punctuation activities, paragraph correction and filling in the blank activities.


If you like platforms like Padlet and LinoIt, you will like the collaborate activity on Nearpod.   Students can add text as well as images onto a platform that closely resembles Padlet.  Students can also 'like' other peoples ideas, which they love.

Students opinion

I asked my class to rate the digital apps we use out of 5 (1 being no; 5 yes).  Here is what they had to say about Mentimeter and Nearpod:

 As you can see they are basically the same, although there is a slight preference for Nearpod. The graphs also show that majority of my class enjoys using these presentation tools, with only two students rating 1 and 2 for both Mentimeter and Nearpod.

So, what is the best?

It is pretty hard to choose between Nearpod and Mentimeter.  While they are both presentation apps, they can be used for different purposes.  I think Nearpod should have better download options, as I would like to be able to print off and display some of the awesome work we do on Nearpod. For Mentimeter, I think they should include a function similar to the Draw it activity on Mentimeter.  The only reason why I would choose Mentimeter over Nearpod is because of their options for downloading presentation results.

Overall, I couldn't recommend these presentation tools more highly.  They increase engagement and participation, compared to the traditional verbal Think-Pair-Share model. Both tools help students to feel comfortable and willing to share their ideas.  I also think the quality of ideas is a lot better.  This could be because they are talking more time to think and compose their responses.  Using these tools take longer than TPS, but you get a lot more out of your learners.