Data – Looking at writing samples of ELL students

Research question:  How can I use technology to increase ELL speaking and writing skills?


Collecting Data:  Once I have collected student writing samples I need to decide what information I am going to look at.  


Students:  I decide to look at writing samples of 5 level 3-4 ESL students, 2 of whom are on IEPs.  


What is the Purpose of my Research?


Feeling a little overwhelmed I decided to focus primarily on the purpose of using information I gather to inform and improve my teaching.  My question “to increase skills” is very vague.  In order to look at data I need to be more specific about what this means.  How can I focus on what to look at in writing skills?  What do I THINK I taught my students and did they show they learned it?


Over the course of the year we have focused on 3 genres:  Narrative, Opinion, and Literary Analysis.  I decided just to focus on Narrative.


What have we taught – and what did students learn?


Over the course of the year as we teach narrative our focus is on teaching students to include “DAFT” – Dialogue, Action, Feelings, and Thoughts.   In addition we worked on adding descriptions and onomatopoeia.    Also, I want some way to measure the use of more academic vocabulary.    And I decide to count the number of sentences students use.


The Data:  


Project 1:   Writing a section of the story of Goldilocks from the Goldilocks point of view, after doing oral “Interviews with Goldilocks” on in Book Creator on the IPADs.   This was a hand-written assignment.


Student Dialogue Actions Feelings Thoughts Onomonopeia Description Sentences Vocab
A* 3 5 10 12 3
B 1 7 2 6 17 10
C* 1 6 6 6 4
D 2 1 8 12 3
E* 5 2 5 8 7


Project 2:   Rewriting a Fairy Tale from a new perspective.  There was no oral activity before writing.  This was a hand-written assignment.  


Dialogue Actions Feelings Thoughts Onomonopeia Description Sentences Vocab
A* 18 2 2 2 26 6
B 3 9 1 11 6
C* 3 13 2 2 25 5
D 4 2 2 1 4 18 9
E* 2 6 3 1 1 13 7


Reactions to the Data

  • More writing included Actions
  • There was more description in the first activity that included a speaking activity.
  • There was more dialogue in the second activity
  • More than half of the sentences do not include academic vocabulary.  
  • Even though we talked a lot about Onomonopeia, students used it very little.
  • There was an increase in Dialogue in the second assignment.  The student who used significantly more dialogue had a lot more sentences overall.  

Next Steps

Use technoloty to Increase use of DAFT

  • Use the next narrative task to have students use Chromebooks to type so we can focus on revision more and include DAFT as a rubric.

Use technology to Increase Academic Vocabulary

  • Find ways to provide examples of academic vocabulary students can use – an example might be providing a word bank on a Google classroom document for writing so it is easily visible.
  • Narrative writing about a Social Studies topic may provide more opportunities for strong vocabulary than Narrative writing about Fairy Tales.   
  • Try using Google Read Write to say sentences with vocabulary before writing.

Talking before writing: An interview with Goldilocks

Revised Question

How can I use technology to make grade level writing tasks accessible to English language learners and students on IEPs?


Our first project in grade 3

Jen Ostayan (SPED inclusion teacher)  and I ( ESL inclusion teacher) set out to help our students write narratives that changed the point of view of the narrator.  We started with the traditional tale of Goldilocks.

What makes the task hard for our students?

Students would have to tell the story from the point of view of Goldilocks.  This meant students would have to use “I” any time they referred, and the correct verb form to go with it.  They would also have to be creative in order to think about what Goldilocks might have been thinking and feeling, and then add that into their writing.

What would we have kids to in order to use speaking to practice before writing?

Students did interviews of Goldilocks.  We paired high and lower students with the high student doing the interview, and the low student playing the role of Goldilocks.  Interviewers asked questions like, “What were you thinking when you saw the house?”  and “Why did you taste the porridge?” The higher student would have the challenge of asking probing questions, the lower student would have the chance to practice what they were about to write using “I” and the proper verb.

What technology would help us and how would we use it?

Our school has Chromebook carts for grades 1-5, but the kindergarten teachers share an ipad cart.  After evaluating the technology, we decided to borrow the ipads from kindergarten because it would be the least cumbersome technology.  We used  the  ___ app.

What did we notice kids were doing while recording their interviews?

Students with quiet voices realized they had to speak up to be recorded.

Students normally hesitant to speak in front of the whole class were very engaged and spoke a lot.

Many groups, even though we didn’t tell them to, rehearsed before recording, or re-recorded to “get it write”.

They made suggestions to each other.  “Why don’t you ask me___” or “Try that again but add _____”    Some of those suggestions included adding difficult vocabulary words.

What happened when it came to write?

Students were highly motivated to write.

Students were able to use “I” without too much effort to tell the story.

One SPED student that we had been previously been unable to engage in writing was so dramatic in her recorded story telling that we put her on speech to text software and she loved the assignment.  It was a real break through for her feeling like she could be a “writer”.

What did we do next?

We had students draw pictures to go with their recordings and they shared the work with their families at open house.