Preparing for the meetings
I created a 'Writing Plan' and Marc and I set about preparing the following resources for each student:
- A copy of their February Asttle test paper
- A print out their Individual learning pathways from the Asttle website
- A goal setting template called 'The Big Picture'
- Exemplars of what a level 5/6 writing example looked like
- A simplified breakdown of each of the elements that the test is marked on
|Individual learning pathways|
|Results for the year 9's from their February asttle writing test.|
We met with 71 year 9 students over the week (10 or so had low attendance issues). For the students at level 2, we met with them individually and for the others, we met with them in groups of no more then 3. The meetings took longer then we anticipated, on average between 25 - 30 minutes each. For the year 10's, I took my social studies class through the writing plans as a class, which I found was effective for them. Unfortunately, we couldn't get to all the 10's, so will focus on them week one of term four.
We started by meeting with the students whose score was at levels 2 individually because we thought it best to spend some time discussing with them where they were at and to encourage them to think about ways they could improve their writing. We wanted to hear what they had to say.
I began the discussion by talking about the 'Big Picture' . For the 'Where am I AT?' box, we discussed their February asttle result and we talked through what each element meant on the asttle test. They then wrote down their strengths and work on's from their individual learning pathway.
As I led the discussions with each student, Marc read over their February test paper. He addressed specifically what students had written. He then discussed with them the things that they did well on and helped them identity their work ons specific to their paper.
|I discuss with students their plans whilst Marc looks over their February test.|
- Make sure to write an explanation not a narrative or story.
- When explaining, try to convince your audience that what you are were saying is a fact
- Keep it formal, no slang
- Write a plan then use the plan - a third is planning, a third is writing and a third is editing.
- Always write what you will talk about in the intro
- Use a topic sentence to start off each paragraph
- Keep referring back to the topic of the essay
- Don't write in first person, try to write in third
- Imagine the person who is reading your explanation knows nothing about your topic
- Use a variety of perspectives
|Marc shares a highlighted exemplar|
We knew these meetings were important but actually having them one on one with the kids was really positive. Initially, most of the students asked if they were in trouble, but once we started, they were quite receptive to hearing about their writing.
Here are some of the responses from the students we'd met with:
"Ms, I was really dumb back then. Can I sit the test now?"
"Can we do this with our maths?"
"If we fail this, does it mean we stay back a year?"
"I can see why it's good to plan before you write"
|Our Level 2A student wrote his 'Big Picture' plan.|
Overall, we found sitting down with the students really beneficial, not just for the students but for us in understanding ways to support our kids more. The kids were engaged and receptive to the thought of focusing on their writing and understood the importance of looking at where they were in February. They seemed to understand that across all of their subject areas explanation writing is a key component of their learning and that with a few simple consistent tools and strategies, they can take an active role in improving their writing.
For the future, I have a few ideas to support what we've started.
- Over these holidays, our department has discussed the need to prepare our juniors through a current events context, focussed on developing their written responses. I will design a unit to support this for our juniors.
- Next term, I want to speak to tutor classes and a year level assembly about preparing mentally for testing. After reading their thoughts about writing, I can see some patterns as to how they feel about it.
- Once the asttle results for November are available, I want to identify the kids who are still well below their level or who may have made the least shift and develop an appropriate programme to meet their learning needs. This will be shared with their jumpstart teachers for 2019.
- Meet with the HOD's of core subjects and discuss a writing plan that addresses explanation writing across our subject areas.
- Early next year, a few days after students have their marks recorded on the asttle website (most likely in March), me and Marc will sit down with each student and set some writing goals. I will share these with subject teachers who can support their students with their writing.