Monday, 19 February 2018

New Year... New Inquiry

The new learning year brings with it a new opportunity for me to inquire into my own teaching practice. After a lot of thought I have chosen to focus my inquiry around our hardest to shift writers in Year 8. They are all boys with identified learning needs who have participated in intervention programs to try and fill the knowledge gaps that have become more and more evident, as they have progressed through their own learning journeys.

Having worked with this group last year I know the level of scaffolding that was required to help minimise the disconnects they perceive that they have with learning. These students all want to experience success in learning, but rather than take risks and trying the new, they opt for a safer route preferring to fall back on the known. This means that when data is analysed their levels of shift show minimal movement, which is the main reason I have chosen to inquire into ways I can help them strengthen their connections to writing.

Today I asked a few questions to establish how they felt about writing at school. This is recorded in the table below, (I will update the table after the assessments next week so that their e-asTTle writing levels are current for 2018)It seems that running out of ideas puts explanation writing in the 'boring' basket, a 'go-to' word that masks the fear of failure. They all said they wanted to do more of the quick write challenges that I introduced last year after a professional development session run by Jeff Anderson. None of these learners are not wanting to learn, they just do not have the confidence to try new learning as they are afraid of making a mistake. That part shocked me as I thought I encouraged a very safe learning environment where making mistakes just show we are learning to use new skills. When I clarified if they were frightened of making a mistake or just didn't want to get something wrong, I realised they simply didn't have the language to articulate that they didn't want me to think they didn't know what to do. 
These learners will happily work collaboratively but seem to lose confidence when asked to complete an independent task. My initial thinking is that I will borrow elements from the Big Write program in the UK by including a fun VCOP focus each week as vocabulary, punctuation and sentence structure are major stumbling blocks for us. Additionally I will revisit and build on the familiar quick writes we used last year, as they all experienced success with this. Talk needs to also play a huge part in helping to strengthen these connections, so my next step is to research ways that I can provide authentic learning opportunities for my learners to use the language I need to help them embed in their own knowledge kete, in context.

Ros Wilson explains the Big Write

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