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Improving boys' writing using Google docs

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Duration: 4:2

Anna Swann, from Holy Cross School, explains her teacher inquiry into using Google docs to enhance achievement and engagement in writing with boys. She found the barriers to the writing were removed and the boys' attitudes changed.

Anna Swann
The inquiry I looked into was how to use Google docs to enhance achievement and engagement in writing. I was given a list of boys. Some boys in Year 6 were achieving just below national standards in writing, and I wanted to see what I could do to get them engaged in writing, excited about writing, and really achieving in writing. I first of all spent a lot of time building relationships with the boys. Some of them I knew quite well, some of them not so much. So, a lot of time was spent really gaining their trust and them getting to know me so they could tell me about themselves, and we ventured into the computer room because that was a good time and a good place for them to really get their writing down. A lot of time was spent on looking at the organisation of the boys’ writing. Some of them lacked a lot of structure to their writing so we spent a lot of time using brainstorm tools on Google docs and I would use templates that I would design so that they were able to brainstorm into an organisational type thing for their paragraphing and structure of their ideas. Another advantage of using Google docs was that they were able to have that instant audience that wasn’t just me, and they shared with each other, and they were able to give themselves their own feedback and feedforward, which was quite interesting – listening and writing the comments and watching the boys’ reaction to those comments as well. We’ve been really lucky that they can share it through the school newsletter and they get to see their writing in print and they see themselves as authors now. I found that the boys were really into writing their stories on the computer for a start – it meant that they didn’t have to go looking for a pencil all the time. It was very instant, and they’re very good at typing and they’re much faster at it. There was no need to re-write because things were already there, their ideas, and they could shift them around.

When I used to write in my book it was messy, the words were incorrect, and I only used to write short stories. But, when I use Google docs I can correct it, I can write more neater, and I can write more longer.

Anna Swann
With their writing, I got quite a buzz every time my iPad dinged with their writing arriving with me as they shared it on the Google docs, and we were able to really work on individual need and see what each boy was learning, but what they were telling me as well in their writing so I could really pinpoint stuff that they needed to work on. They all had different needs but a lot of similar things too so that was good for buddy work. They could see that on their peer feedback. The boys were given pretty much free reign on what they wanted to write about. That wasn’t really the purpose. The purpose was to find out what they wanted to say, and then give them the framework to write it in, and with their comments to each other, because they were all writing such different things, they were excited to read each others, and we had to work a little bit on what makes a good comment, and what makes a helpful comment.

I can share my stories on Google docs, my friends can see it and give me comments, and it makes me feel happy and proud of myself.

Anna Swann
They also are able to carry on at home and they are sharing it with their parents.  My iPad dings all hours and I can see that they’re just really excited about their writing and they get to do it anywhere, any time. The barriers to the writing have certainly gone and the attitudes have changed. The boys love writing. It’s not about the tedious task of picking up a pencil and having to write scrawls and scrawls and scrawls. The focus has gone completely on the actual what they’re writing about, not the actual physical process of writing, and they get to say what they want to say and tell a story. And, after some recent assessment, it’s really neat to see that these boys are all meeting national standards in writing now. Using the teaching inquiry model has really made me reflect on my practice in the classroom, and with all across the curriculum, and I really see that it’s an ongoing process, and it doesn’t stop just because you come to the end of a cycle, because there is so much more out there.

Tags: Primary, GAFE, Teacher inquiry, Literacy, Writing, English