Influences and Effect Sizes on Writing

Hattie highlights that the diversity of our children makes a (d=0.11) difference to outcomes. Well that knocks out the statement ‘Our data is shyte, because we have so many ESOL children.

Research Based

Hattie’s research stresses that the greater than (d=0.40) is what makes a difference in class programmes. I read this to surmise that our second language learners should make minimal impact on class programmes.  Again it all comes back to the teacher who makes the greatest difference. Teachers trained in second language pedagogies. Teachers who empathise with our second language learners because they themselves have experience of either living in a country other than English or who are learning a second language themselves. An experienced teacher is an experienced teacher. Probably one of my greatest criteria is an empathetic teacher. I know because I am also a language learner.

I remind readers of the research of Collier and Thomas whose longitudinal research provides us with a historical way of viewing our second language learners. Their research looks at how long it takes for second language learners to achieve academic success and they say 1-2 years for Basic Interpersonal Communication and then on top of that between 6-8 years of Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency in their second language for evidence to be strong and again it all depends on class programmes. Ideally there should be an emphasis on first language maintenance too and then we would see even greater accelerated progress.

So our children are at primary school for 6 years. Therefore if they began at 5 years old in their second language we should see catching up with national standard data by intermediate levels and even secondary school. Yes it takes that long. Again when I see the high gains at years 1 and 2 with teachers telling me that the children are at standards, I usually respond with, “Great now let us see if they hold that when Cognitive Academic demands becomes more evident after three years at school and above. You know, that crazy year 3 dip in writing that appears to be common in most New Zealand schools.

In our Community of Learners (ACCoS) I am extremely excited because finally I will get the chance to see if the results from Thomas and Collier pan out. I have had snippets from past second language learners who began with no English and who have gone on to take away their school prizes in literacy at high school. I have often wondered how our other children do. Unfortunately in our CoL we will only be able to see our girls achievement at secondary school but can still make smart guesses about our boys.

A class teacher would find the challenges of having a dominant mix of ethnicities and a vast variety of English Language Proficiencies extremely challenging. However a proficient teacher will search for ways to cater for all their students. Unfortunately there is no quick fix, iPad app, computer programme, ILE or writing strategy to ‘fix’ this. Only time and an unwavering belief that our children will succeed and we all need to be pushing them along.

I have been working with a group of English second language learners in writing.  This is what I do to support them.

Background

Most of the children have English as a second language. However I also target anyone who needs support at the same level. I thought I would write about the process I undertake so that others might find it useful. I stress here that the best support is ideally within the class programme. But sometimes for intervention the spread happens across several classes within a team. I work alongside teachers so that the writing emphasis is similar to what takes place in class and the children remaining in class are also writing. The last thing language learners need is withdrawal and missing out on class programmes. They are already late to the starting line and we do not want to push this starting line back further.

The children I have selected for this piece of reflection are all year 4s. They are mostly boys but Hattie has reminded me that a boys focus only accounts for a (d=0.08) improvement. Most are second language learners but again Hattie has indicated that this makes (d=0.11) difference to what I do. Last year as year 3s, they sat at 1P for writing and so are below. However most were at for writing in year 2. Last year their reading was at for year 3.

Hattie’s Influences that I will focus on

So as an experience Second Language Teacher and one who uses SOLO Taxonomy to frame what I do,   I will use research (meta-analyses) ranking the influence of different strategies on student achievements (Hattie 2009, 2011, 2015) to explain the strategies that I have chosen. Hattie suggests that  the following influences will help make the greatest difference in student achievement.

  • Cognitive Task Analysis (d=0.87) using SOLO Taxonomy to identify where the task sits  on Cummins Task Difficulty.
  • Opportunity for class discussion (d=0.82)  and what we know about privileging opportunities for students to speak.
  • Meta Cognitive Strategies (d=0.53) using SOLO Taxonomy and Second Language Learners because I have coauthored a book with Pam Hook about the process of learning framed with SOLO.
  • Concept Mapping (d=0.64)  using Hooked on thinking Maps because they are research based and framed using SOLO.
  • Small Group Learning d=0.47)  using targeted intervention for writing such as the SOLO Taxonomy list of writing words identified in SOLO Taxonomy and Second Language Learners.
  • Parental Involvement (d=0.49) by making contact with families through a phone call and have one piece of writing each published in the school newsletter this term.
  • Self Questioning (d=0.64) using, ‘What am I learning? How is it going? What do I do next?’ as a daily beginning for each lesson used from Hook.  

The first thing I always do is look at the children’s historic data both in reading and writing. I did this for my targeted learners using our Student Management System, Edge.

results

Here is an example

First I located last years writing data in PDF format and printed this off for the children. I had them look closely at their data and highlight where they sat against National Standards. Then using a different colour they highlighted areas that required improvement. For my current group they all highlighted planning and structure. Often I see planning lagging right across all year levels and structure from about year 4 and older.  Next we scaffolded what planning is, looks like and how to do this.

So together we created a group map using SOLO Taxonomy Hexagons to list our ideas. Together we grouped our ideas and came up with sub titles for the groups. For this purpose I used colour post-it notes.

After that I took a photo of the Concept Map and gave each child a copy to use for their writing. We constructed the success criteria with an emphasis of ticking off any ideas we used in writing.

Finally the children used their individual photo of the co-constructed map to write from. Just before they wrote they numbered the subtitles to help with structuring their writing. I gave them a 20 minute timed task and recorded how many words they wrote in 20 minutes.

How did we go?

We looked at what we wrote and identified

  • that not enough writing was generated in the short time.
  • that paragraphs were not happening (structure)
  • in addition very few relational SOLO Taxonomy written words were used.

So that became ‘What do we do next?’

For the second piece of writing, again I used a shared experience and had the children create their own describe map using the previous subtitled words they had identified. They were given 5 minutes to plan and again 20 minutes to write. However for this session I realised I was missing the discussion part. Hattie’s elements identified that classroom discussion accounts for an effect size of (d=0.82) so have added this to elements to focus on. In addition using Cummins continuum I realised that what I was asking from the children was cognitively demanding and was context reduced because I did not provide enough support either visually or with front loading.

When the children finished the writing using a pencil, they transferred their work digitally to their Google Accounts and added more. Immediately I saw a doubling of written words in a very short time.

Now in planning for the third week of writing I will now include.

  • Meta Cognitive Strategies (d=0.53) using SOLO Taxonomy and Second Language Learners because I have coauthored a book with Pam Hook about the process of learning framed with SOLO.
  • Concept Mapping (d=0.64)  using Hooked on thinking Maps because they are research based and framed using SOLO.
  • Opportunity for class discussion (d=0.82)  and what we know about privileging opportunities for students to speak.
  • Ensure that the task is cognitively demanding and content embedded.

For this week I will also include a co-constructed Hooked SOLO rubric because by now the children are developing a sense of the planning process. From previous experience I also know that the rubric contributes to the cognitive strategies by allowing self reflection using evidence base in what the children can see in their writing.

planning

Reflection

I still need to slow down the writing process but not loose sight of accelerated progress. I continually try and speed up the process.

I can continue to give oral feedback and follow up with a written comment.

I want to use digital tools for the total process to see if this makes a difference to the volume. My only challenge is using google draw for planning and the children cannot tick off their plan.

I wonder if I should trial presentations for the writing process because the planning tools can be manipulated better than in draw and docs. Unfortunately presentations does not have the word count feature which I really like to visually motivate the children.

Think aloud.

By stepping through what I do using this think aloud reflection, I can identify my strategy gaps in what I did with my learners. The main was was giving a cognitively demanding task but with little support or the opportunity for discussion.

I cannot emphasise enough the importance of using shared language experiences for writing.

How often do we dismiss these for writing prompts because we do the same activity every year or every term. However by utilising annual or termly school wide activities in writing we develop a resource of snapshots in time and if the children are curating their work digitally we should be able to see a development in their writing using the same prompt.

Where to next

Make a connection with families. I kind of do this anyway but really need to lift my game and make this visual by tracking when I do this. I did this really well two years ago and need to revisit those home connection strategies.

My group will soon carry out their written asTTle test and I like to follow this process with marking and moderating alongside their team. I will compare their data with their historic data and see how much this first term intervention has made a difference. For a couple of the students I also want to follow up with their reading data because I am not as confident that they will sustain the levels they were placed at the end of last year. Using probe will confirm or dispute this assumption.

In addition I really want to dig deeper with our year 6 national standards data. When I track some of our ESOL learners who have been with us for three years I can see they have met after three years at school standard. But against national standards their data is well below. Looking at it a different way. They came with no English and then after three years at our school, they met after three years at school standard. Personally I confirm this as accelerated progress. What do you think? Are they failing? If you want to know more about the process of writing with ESOL children then you cannot go wrong with SOLO Taxonomy and English Language Learners: Making second language learning visible. Personally I cannot recommend this resource enough and not just because my name is also on the cover but because it is applicable for any writing programme.

References

Collier, V. (1987) How long? A synthesis of research on academic achievement in a second language. TESOL Quarterly, 23

Harris, A., & Goodall, J. (2008). Do parents know they matter? Engaging all parents in learning. Educational Research, 50(3), 277-289.  

Hattie Ranking: 195 Influences And Effect Sizes Related To Student Achievement

Hook, P., & Van Schaijik, S. (2016). SOLO taxonomy and English language learners: making second language learning visible. Laughton, United Kingdom: Essential Resources.

3 thoughts on “Influences and Effect Sizes on Writing

  1. Hi Sonya,

    This is a very informative, thorough post! I definitely agree that entering with no English and meeting standards within three years is progress. I think we should be wary of what standards we set, and the idea of trying to put all students in to some sort of mold. Student-focused learning is best, as it conforms to the learner rather than the idea of what the learner should be.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Sonya, I think we can take Hattie’s research with a grain of salt. Having analysed the primary data his statistical methods are dubious. I do take away his message of knowing the learner. Teaching is a complex system and can not be generalised that one thing will work or not work with a particular classroom. Doing your own reflective analysis of your own learners as you have done is the way to go. No easy fixes in teaching. All the best for China!

    Liked by 1 person

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