Literacy Teaching Inquiry 2015

'The year of the HUNCH'

This year thinking for my teaching inquiry is anchored in...



This is a work in progress. 
Over the next couple of weeks I'm placing reflective and current written notes and thinking into this blog post. 

CHECK what last years Inquiry looked like.
I’m looking at the RTC's and the biggest gap stares me in the face.
There is room for improvement in the following two areas.

  1. Criteria 11: Analyse and appropriately use assessment and information, which has been gathered formally and informally.
  2. Criteria 3: Demonstrate commitment to bicultural partnership in Aotearoa / New Zealand.

What I find engaging about the spiral is you start where you start. The important thing is to get started.
I starting at Scanning.
The data from my class indicated there was a small group of students who are under the standard in written literacy.
This group are of Maori and Asian descent.
This cohort of students is a school wide focus.

I am using a school wide table to capture what is going on for this cohort in my class.

Planning to Achieve
Strategic Goals  
  1. All  students learn, progress and achieve to their highest level
Annual Goal
Achievement targets are set for groups of learners based on robust achievement information.
Annual Target Where do we want to be at the end of 2015?
Māori and Asian boys who are currently not achieving the writing standard for their year level will make above average progress towards achieving the standard in 2016.
Baseline data
  • Who are the Māori boys in your class who are currently underachieving in writing?
  • Who are the Asian boys in your class who are currently underachieving in writing?
  • How do you know that these boys are underachieving?
running record & or STAR results
range in results
Peters & Pseudo
NS – teacher OTJs
Reading & Writing
Student 1
11-12 PROBE

Asttle 2P
T1 3B
T2 3B
T3 3B
T4 3B

Pseudo DNA
Enjoys writing.
Enjoyed Pixton

Highly distracted.
Avoids reading.

Will do what ever possible to not read
Student 2
6.5-7.5 PROBE

T1 2B
T2 3B
Full Stops/Caps.
Sentence work
T3 3B
T4 3B

Pseudo 18
Increased writing confidence due to use of laptop and GAFE.
Enjoys writing. Is writng on same contexts as the rest of the class.
Enjoyed Pixton
T1:Enjoys reading non fiction. 
Lexia when rest of students are reading.
T2: Absent for 3 weeks
T3: Absent for 5 weeks
Avoids writing
Avoids reading
Student 3
11-12 PROBE

Asttle 4A
T1 4P
T2 4P
T3 4P
T4 4A

Pseudo 102
Is tentative about using GAFE. Prefers pen and paper.
Enjoyed Pixton
T1: Avoids reading & writing
T2: Caught the reading bug! T3:Wants a working library card. Asking to read instead of class room program
Student 4
11-12 PROBE

Asttle 3B

T1 3B
T2 3P
T3 3A
T4 3A

Pseudo 99
Will write but continues to be tentative. Thoroughly enjoyed Newspaper skimming and scanning program
Enjoyed Pixton
Has not found a book that has captured him yet.

Avoids reading.
Avoids writing.

Student 5

Asttle 2P
T1 3B
T2 3P
T3 4B
T4 4B

Will do what ever possible to not read


Key Improvement Strategies
What will you do to make sure that these boys make above average progress in writing this year?
Describe the aspects of your whole class programme that will promote learning for this group.
T1: Starting Book Selling
T1: Use of  GAFE
T1:Use of youtube clips for repeated instructions
T1: Daily reading
T1:Reading of class book - Eragon. Talking through elements of a narrative and getting hooked into the story.
T1: Writing into shared slides using Google Classroom
T2: Starting Current Events
T2: Small pop up writing groups by Student Teacher of Classroom Teacher
T3: Use of twitter - tweeting questions - sharing learning conversations about books. #kidsbookchat
T3: Increasing learning conversations with another year 7/8 classroom at another school. Using Twitter. Using Hashtag #Rm278WellyNZ
Focus: What does a 'good' tweet look like this week. all tweets to be simple or compound, complex sentences.

T4: Exploring the possibility of Students blogging small batches of writing. - Need to think this through. Digital Portfolio's started
T4: Writing in 'bites' with poetry focus.
T4: Introducing a Ballad about an Out Law

Will instruction in learning to spell help these boys improve their writing?
What will you do to

How will your Reading programme  support these boys to achieve success in writing?
Reading will be linked to writing.
Reading will be varied.
Reading for purpose.
Reading non fiction news events that interest them.
Repetition so they know what is expected.
Focus on News Paper skimming and scanning program
Working on shared documents in google Classroom so students can observe, comment and read others writing.
Opportunities to work together in different spaces.
Visiting the Wellington City Library and ensuring they can get issue books.

Do these boys have personal goals for writing?

List goals here
See writing Goals on eAsttle - these are cut out and stuck on thier books and laptop key boards.

Student 1: 
To write three paragraphs. (achieved) To confidently write + present a current event and book sell to the class. Write simple and compound sentences.

Student 2:
To write using Word Q. To confidently write a current event. Write simple and compound sentences. to start independently.

Student 3:  
To confidently present a current event and book sell to the class. Write simple and compound sentences.

Student 4: 
To confidently present a current event and book sell to the class. Write simple and compound sentences.

Students 5:
To confidently present a current event and book sell to the class. Write simple and compound sentences.To find a book they enjoy.

If not, explain why not:
Other  notes:

What do you need to be successful in raising the achievement level of this group of boys?
Reading books that capture the students interest
T2 News Paper program skimming and scanning - with Student Teacher
T2 Master Teaching Student has this group as his focus too!
T3 Follow up library Cards. Library fines
T3 Wifi whole class using twitter.
T4 Students set up blogger accounts,

Term 1
Circumstance: Looking at the data my students are writing below standard. Class is completely new to me. I'm in serious SCANNING Phase. There are 33 students in my class. I”m scanning fast!
When I scan I realise these students are quiet and tend to slip under the radar. How am I going to manage this? How am I going to manage up my expectations? I spent most of T1 scanning and catching bits of learning information. Then I focus on one small thing.

TAKING ACTION: Started Book Selling. This was inspired by Murray Blandford at Wellesley College. What is Book Selling? (link to come) I focussed on what where my target groups behaviours in the book selling context.

Result: The whole class increased their reading milage and book consumption. My target students did not. Book Selling became the vehicle to discuss books they did not like and why. The target students did not want to do book selling. I learnt the target students have plenty of avoidance strategies.

Term 2
Circumstance: I'm trying really hard to be in the FOCUSSING stage and find myself swapping between FOCUSSING and DEVELOPING A HUNCH. I'm focussed on what my target students are not doing (they are still not writing) and my hunch is they need a bit of a challenge. Through FOCUSSING I have noticed that they are not confident learners. How can I in some way nudge the confidence along? Is it possible to set up the conditions for students to write where there is no wrong answer. Where their thinking is the valued content. (and writing isn't writing a narrative as they don't like doing this)

TAKING ACTION: Introduced critical thinking skills through the use of weekly Current Events. 
This was inspired by Murray Blandford at Wellesley College.

Result: The LEARNING for me was the whole class were totally engaged as they were keen on real life stories and were in a position to choose the most topical and controversial events to discuss with the class. When it came to writing up thinking the target students wrote and answered the journalistic questions and thinking skills. Each student wrote small amounts, however did not engage with language features. This was evidenced in the class collection of current events curated in a folder.
During T3 two target students started asking to present their current events ahead of their timetabled time! Amazing!

Term 3
Circumstance: Students are writing with little attention to sentence structure.

TAKING ACTION: Initiated a literacy program with another classroom in Wellington. Program is based on twitter conversation about the books each student is reading. The focus is on what does a good tweet look like and critical thinking. We discuss what a good tweet looks like. eg. use of a simple, compound, complex sentences. The CHECKING of a 'good tweet' is measured through printing off the conversations for that period of time. Each tweet has the students name and the includes the hashtag #Rm278WellyNZ #kidsbookchat . I then highlight the target students tweet conversations and compare each week. I'm starting to get a bit more of a feel for this Inquiry Spiral and notice I'm SCANNING & FOCUSSING as I'm CHECKING whats going on with these students.

Target students used books from their T1 book Selling. Almost like re mashing work they had done in T1. They had material to engage with. They are confidently adding images of their books to their tweets. I think I'm starting to SCAN again - I'm trying to stop myself so I can really marinate in the LEARNING this term. I don't want t move on too fast incase I miss what learning is going on. So I"m trying very hard to stay in the LEARNING space.
More to come...

During T3: Target Student 4 has completely caught the reading bug! I'm not so certain its because of the inquiry directly - I would like to think the learning landscape in my classroom nudged this along. End of the day the bug is caught and it's reassuring to know you can not unlearn what you know. Student 4 is now engaged in his reading! From my reading of Simple Habits for Complex Times by Jennifer Garvey Berger & Keith Johnston I understand that learning is not a complicated puzzle that can be assembled reassembled. Like some kind of rubric cube. Instead the system of learning is complex and I am not able to control every variable. The Inquiry Spiral is assisting me to move with and do something within this complexity.

Whilst TAKING ACTION something unexpected happened...
As I've been focussing on improving Maori and Asian student literacy I have also increased the use of Te reo Maori in the classroom, including individual mihi each morning. Completely unexpectedly 3 more students identify as Maori and have not indicated this on their enrolment or spoken about it up until now. One of the students is below the standard in both reading and writing. Quickly - I add this student to my 'formal' teaching inquiry'. Becoming Student 5! I am super interested that this emerged from my inquiry as I could not have planned for this to happen. 

Target students sit e-asttle reading test WK7 week.
 e-asttle  writing assessment in WK 8 (Watch this space!)

Term 4
Circumstance: Based on collected data I can see all the students have increased in their writing ability. However, movement in reading has been minimal.

TAKING ACTION: I decide to have four literacy focuses going on at once. Research project (reading researching interesting facts chosen by the student), initiating digital portfolio's to publish and curate own writing (student agency - novelty factor) Using Kahoot (speedy high energy reading novelty factor) and creating a poetry anthology. (write and read in small sharp bites) Each of these required working with student agency.

Student 5 chooses his own context for researching light. Cars! LED /OLED (who knew?) I received the most intensive writing and quality work all year from student 5. It's getting close to the end of the year and this student is writing and choosing to write when there is down time.

Students 1/2/3/4/5 totally engaged with creating a 'Wanted' visual to go with a ballad about an outlaw.

Students 1/2/3/4/5 creating haiku, cinquain, diamante poems and contributing to shared slides. I'm not needing to follow up on their writing.

Students 1/2/3/4/5 totally engaged when using Kahoot

So now its December 2015...
Are there any shifts since January 2015?

1. Student 3 & 4 have caught the reading bug!
2. Student 1 has experienced steady writing achievement.
3. Student 5 is engaged in his writing. However still refuses to read. (unless its about cars!)
4. Student 2 is keen to use his digital portfolio and show his parents his writing.

1. I noticed all the students prefer to read non fiction text about real word experiences.
2. That data is exciting! (yes really - especially when there is change)

How might this inquiry inform my teaching inquiry for next year?

So now I'm re CHECKING and SCANNING the end of year outcomes.
I'm wondering about the next FOCUS. I will be teaching Students 1 & 2 next year. 


1. Focus on the active curation of learning on the digital portfolio. Ensure key member of the student's worlds have invited access, with comment functionality enabled.

2. I have a HUNCH. I'm wondering about inviting a maori male poet / writer into the classroom. Being Maori is important to these students and a role model just might contribute to increased learning outcomes.

3. Increase the amount of non fiction reading by focussing on Inquiry based literature and current events. In 2016 I want to graph the percentage of fiction and non fiction through the year. My HUNCH is these students need a much higher ratio of non fiction text.

4. I'm wondering about the role of emergence in the Inquiry Spiral. How can I at each point in the spiral set the conditions for the unexpected to emerge? The factor I can't control? Its almost looking and listening when you don't know what your looking and listening for. Yet if you know the direction you are going in looking and listening just might nudge me in that direction.

5. Based on the idea that collaborative networks are the key to teaching and learning It is important to me that my next inquiry is undertaken with another person or in a team.

6. Based on the importance of Student Agency. I have a HUNCH that the conditions are set for student learning inquiry. 

Possible questions to ask my Y 7/8 students:
Why do you not want to read? 
What can I do to support you in your writing and reading?
What do you want more of...
What do you want less of...


  1. Hey D-G - great post! I am interested in all the digging you have done during Scanning in relation to these kids being quiet and slipping under the radar. What did you ask? Did you ask the children why? What techniques did you use to make them comfortable in telling their story about why they are quiet? Is it okay to be quiet? What else can they tell you about the things that help them to learn in general and in Writing? When you look at the Developing Hunches phase during Scanning you can ask yourself and others questions about what you're doing to respond well to quiet learners. What do their families think and know about their learning in this area? Have you asked some of the suggested questions under Scanning in these two articles?
    Which questions did you choose and why?

    Keep on posting and tagging me in on Twitter!! :) Becc

  2. I like the spiral because you can start wherever you like.

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