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Developing informative writing skills by creating a documentary – A teacher inquiry

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Duration: 2:43

Renee Strawbridge, Deputy Principal Mt Biggs School, shares how she researched and structured her teacher inquiry. Her focus was to help students understand the process of informative writing and build skills in this genre through the context of making a documentary.

The thinking behind my teacher inquiry came from a group of students that I have in my class who don't necessarily enjoy the process of writing, the actual physical task of writing things down. Some of these students have learning disabilities like dyslexia or dysgraphia and things like that. I wanted to motivate and engage them, and still help them to make progress in their writing without having to focus so much on the physical task of writing things down. So instead of writing the informative piece it would be presented in the format of a documentary. 

I had to really analyse the matrices and what kinds of things that level three and four students should be able to do. So I've done a lot of learning from that respect.
We first looked at the MADE documentary criteria because that gave us an idea of what a documentary needs. Then we realised that we actually needed to learn a lot of skills about how to make a documentary. There was quite a significant amount of work around planning the documentaries, storyboarding, and that kind of thing. Then we also needed to learn the skills that need to be covered as part of the writing curriculum as well. I have integrated this with my reading program as well so I was teaching children about topic sentences in the reading program. I needed to be able to measure that my students had actually made some progress from changing the way that I'm teaching. So, in order to do, that I started off getting the kids to write a writing sample, and it was an informative text because that's our focus. And then the plan was to do an informative writing sample at the end.

Already I've noticed quite a bit of progress with the students, especially with their structure and language features. Aside from the academic progress I've noticed quite a lot of motivation and excitement about learning. Some of the students that I designed this inquiry for in the first place are really enjoying being able to get outside, and use the camera, and especially choose topics that are interesting to them.

I can really see that the conversations that they're having about their learning are a positive thing and will also impact on their academic progress. I really could see that there was so much transfer between the skills in making the documentary and what they would have done if they were writing it down anyway. So that was really exciting for me to be able to see that I can still teach the same thing but just in a different way and it will still be effective.

Tags: Primary, Teacher inquiry, Writing, iMovie, Digital stories, English