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English Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

English HoD reflection - choices



The internet has allowed the students to find exemplars of different types of work, and not only writing but visual texts and all sorts of things. In the past, I suppose that we felt we could manage with the time, it would be the teacher who selected either the type of writing or the resources that the students saw. So for example, if we were doing autobiographical writing, we would go into class with, you know, three or four or five different examples and that would be the only snapshot that our students would have of autobiographical writing. Now with the internet, we can discuss with kids what is the genre of autobiographical writing, and then they do the investigation themselves.

The students can look at, well, what are we being asked to do here and what are the possibilities. And so this year, we're seeing kids who are putting together kids picture books, we're seeing them doing websites, we're seeing them do presentations with... visual presentations behind them. It's challenging the students but also it's allowing us to teach more genre rather than just teaching pieces of writing. The students' production of their work also has changed a lot in two ways. I can see the first is that because of using the technology, and using the internet, it increases the importance for the students of their writing. It's no longer being published in an exercise book or on a piece of refill, it's online and can be accessed by them and by their families at any time. So that's kind of exciting. But the other thing is also because of the use of the internet and because of the use of the technology, they're spending a lot more time in the care in their presentation of the work because they realise that every piece of work is a presentation. So therefore they can personalise anything they do. Now of course the presentation is important and it's exciting and it's fun, but as English teachers what we're looking at is, if they're using visual texts, does that work? But also with their written text, especially we're looking... we're still teaching the same old things, we're teaching paragraph structure, sentence structure, and grammar. And making sure that that component is still as important as the visual text as well. I think our students are fairly visually literate anyway, meaning they can interpret images quite well, but then taking those rules and being able to reproduce them deliberately themselves I think is our next challenge, which is quite exciting too.

For example, with their writing, a student would spend a lot of time drafting and following our instructions, filling out grids and then producing a final piece of work. And to physically work on that and to write it with a pen in a workbook or on a piece of refill was an event. And then they would do their best to give it to us and we as teachers came at the end of the process. And then of course our job was we knew that it was a draft, where they thought it was a final copy. And so at the end of that process, we would then give it back to them with lots of comments and lots of highlights on it. And that was really demotivating for our students. They saw the teachers at the end of the chain like a rugby referee telling them when they were offside. But now because it's online and because we can access them as they're writing and work with them, the students and the teachers are seeing that together we're working and the students are seeing that their writing, especially, is not an event, it's a process. And so we can work alongside them. And the students are really responsive to that, they're excited to have their teacher working with them before they produce something. I suppose also physically, if they did something in a workbook and we highlighted it and gave it back to them, well then they had to start from scratch again. Where with the technology, they don't have to. They edit, they move on, and then they keep going.

We're seeing the achievement going up. We're also seeing that we're getting more merits and excellences because of the process and because of the kids' enthusiasm. We've always known as teachers at our school, we've always known our kids socially really well. They're always really happy to share about their family and what they do out of school, and what's going on, and what's going well and what's going poorly within their lives. But I think because of our access to their work, we haven't known their learning needs as well as we should have. Because we are daily seeing our students' work, we're getting to know their strengths and their weaknesses in terms of their needs in their language and their writing. So therefore we can confidently, or more confidently now I think, be able to say, well yes I know the learner's background and their social side, but I can now be able to say, well you know, this kid has these specific learning needs to be able to move them up the curriculum progressions.

Published on: 31 Oct 2012