Effect of Having Choice in Writing Format on Student Attitudes Towards Writing

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The Effect Of Having Choice In Writing Format On Student Attitudes Towards Writing

Abstract

This research examines how providing choice in writing format affects students’ attitudes towards writing. Over a two-week period, 20 seventh grade students in southeastern Ohio utilized choice boards to complete classroom writing-assignments. These boards consisted of seven different writing formats, as well as a free-space for which students can create an entirely new format. Prior to and following this choice intervention, students completed a Likert scale attitude survey. Initial results reported that 15% of students strongly agree with the statement “I enjoy writing”, and 10% of students strongly agree that they “don’t mind writing while at school”. At the end of this two week study, 55% of students reported that they “enjoy writing”, and 40% of students reported that they “don’t mind writing while at school”. These results support the idea that when given choice in writing format, student attitude towards writing improves. This improvement in attitude may motivate students to feel more comfortable with writing, and thus encourage them to write beyond academic settings.

Table of Contents

Introduction………………………………………………………………………

Review of literature……………………………………………………………

Methodology…………………………………………………………………

Description of participants……………………………………………………………

Writing Choice Boards………………………………………………………………..

Data collection…………………………………………………………………………

Procedures……………………………………………………………………………..

Data analysis…………………………………………………………………………..

Limitations ……………………………………………………………………………

Results…………………………………………………………………………

Pre-Survey…………………………………………………………………………….

Post Survey……………………………………………………………………………

Exit Slips………………………………………………………………………………

Discussion……………………………………………………………………

Recommendations………………………………………………………………………

Implications…………………………………………………………………..

Conclusions…………………………………………………………………….

References……………………………………………………………………………………….

Appendix A: Writing Choice Boards……………………………………………………………

Appendix B: Pre-Survey………………………………………………………………………

Appendix C: Post-Survey…………………………………………………………………….

Appendix D: Exit Slip………………………………………………………………………

Appendix E: IRB Approval……………………………………………………………………

 

Introduction

Many seventh grade students complain about writing, and often become upset when they are asked to perform writing tasks. Ohio students must successfully pass multiple state tests, including the Ohio Graduation Test. Throughout state testing, students are required to write numerous amounts of text ranging from essays, poetry, fictional stories, personal reflections etc. The Ohio Department of Education (2017) reported that on the Ohio Assessment of Achievement spring 2016 state test 33% of 7th grade students responded below proficient on the writing portion, 43% were at proficient, and 23% were above proficient (p.8). These results indicate that a large amount of students are scoring lower than the state standard; therefore, they may fall further behind as their education continues.

Writing in the classroom typically consists of educators providing exact prompts, and requirements for the class as a whole. Students must follow strict guidelines in order to receive full credit for their writing pieces, and they are rarely allowed to think outside of these set requirements. This type of instruction may encourage students to stop thinking on their own, and only assure that they are giving what the teacher asks of them, rather than motivating them to think and develop on their own. This classroom environment promotes the idea that students do not have a choice in how they spend their time in school, or what they write about. Students are limited in how they can present their comprehension of content, and are therefore confined to a prescribed strategy of how they must display this knowledge.

Providing choice in the classroom is one way to combat the typical teaching methods of writing. Students spend a great amount of time in school every week. Educators must value their time, and consider not only the state standards, but also student interests’, and cognitive ability. When educators provide choice, students feel that they have some control over their time in school, and how they present their knowledge of classroom content. Choice boards not only provide students with this opportunity, but they offer various writing format options for students to become familiar with, and even practice on a daily basis. Choice boards can be implemented in many different ways throughout a class, and are not only limited to writing. This specific study uses them as a way for students to show their comprehension of a class novel; however, these boards can be used in many different contexts and subject areas. For example, students may use choice boards as a research tool in their social studies class. A teacher can create a board where students choose a country listed, and create a research project based on the information they found. This allows the teacher to create guidelines, but offers students choice in the presentation of their information.

It is crucial that students gain experience with writing, and understand the impact that their writing has on their future academically. For those students who do not plan to further their education, writing is still just as important. These are skills that they will use throughout their life whether it be applying for a job or a loan. For these reasons, this research aims to identify whether or not students having choice in what they write, influences their attitude towards writing. One objective of this research is to identify if providing students with choice in writing format affects their attitudes towards writing. In order to assess this, the teacher researcher will implement writing choice boards where students can choose what type of format they would like to use in order to present their knowledge on the fictional novel “Bud, Not Buddy” written by Christopher Paul Curtis (1999). A second aim of this research is to identify what types of writing formats students initially prefer before the implementation of choice intervention and if their preferences stay consistent throughout the choice process. This will be analyzed through the use of daily exit slips, as well as pre and post surveys.

Review of Literature

When discussing student choice in the classroom, many teacher action researchers refer to the term democratic teaching environment. This type of teaching method typically uses the implementation of student choice and student voice in the creation of lesson plans and assignments. Sentürk, and Oyman (2014) reported that students used the terms freedom, equal rights, and popular sovereignty when describing democracy; and when describing democracy within the classroom participants spoke of student ability to express thoughts without fear, equality in student and teacher voice, and valuing all thoughts within classroom environment. Creating this safe environment for students promotes a sense of security in which positive dialogue can be expressed, and student input can be received (Morrison, 2008). Democratic teaching assures that all students and educators hold the same amount of  “voice” during a class lesson, and all thoughts should be appreciated and acknowledged. This type of teaching is being implemented throughout the U.S. and can be traced back to John Dewey in the early 1900’s.

Various educators have found that students enjoy the implementation of student choice, and feel as though they are more interested in what they are creating when it is something they feel comfortable with. A research study by Jeffery and Wilcox (2013) interviewed 40 students from California, New York, Kentucky and Texas suggested that adolescents “generally hold positive attitudes towards writing that allows for the expression of subjective stances, which they report is more commonly assigned in English language arts classrooms” (p. 1095). Unlike Jeffery and Wilcox, Barney and Maughan (2015) found that students may become uncomfortable when presented with choice in activities because they feel as though it is hard for them to make a decision, and takes time to brainstorm how to make their choices work.

In order to implement democratic teaching into this study, students were provided with different choices in writing format, which were based upon the current class novel. The choice boards listed seven different writing formats, as well as a free space where students can create their own format. This method allows students to have a choice in how their knowledge will be assessed. Hetherington (2015) found that using meta-design, which “places significant emphasis on the process side of design and the need for a model that is dynamic and adaptable…(and) involves the creation of socio-technical environments,” provided flexibility within his classroom, and promoted creativity; which resulted in students designing solutions to their own individual problems (p. 98). As their teacher, Hetherington contributed his ideas and support while students created their own personal goals and expectations for his course.

The writing choice boards use a technique similar to Hillary Gardner (2011). Gardner (2011) found that by implementing “activity menus” she was able to instruct the content that students must work on, while providing them with choice based upon Howard Gardner’s (1983) multiple intelligence theory. By choosing activities based upon their learning style and interests, students can easily take content being learned and relate it to their world today. Utilizing this connection encourages information to be stored within a persons’ long-term memory. This type of learning has the ability to increase self-esteem in young adolescents during what is seen as a developmentally strenuous period.

Throughout research there has been a correlation between student choice and positive attitude towards class activities. The National Center for Education Statistics states that many students perform at a basic writing level, but are being expected to participate in many advanced writing tasks. Jeffery and Wilcox (2013) identify different aspects that must be acknowledged within a school such as availability of opportunity and it’s effects on student writing ability and quality. This research provides direct insight on student attitude towards writing and discusses the importance of identifying different learning styles and cognitive abilities. Providing multiple choices in writing type may encourage students to develop better quality writing, due to their interest in what they themselves are creating.

A large part of increasing student self-efficacy and confidence in specific content related areas is to acknowledge and build upon student identity. Meier (2015) studied 5th grade reader’s identity and how freedom of choice in reading material affected this. Her results found that students were more likely to enjoy and finish a book when it was a book of their choice. These students reported that they felt more connected to their stories and enjoyed having time to read them in class (Meier, 2015). This research reiterates the importance of tending to student interests in order to better engage them in components that are required to be taught. When a student is provided with the opportunity to connect with class materials, it is more likely it is for them to become engaged and interested, ultimately increasing their knowledge on the content being learned.

When discussing student interest Schiefele (1991) suggests that people with strong interest in an activity will part-take longer, and enjoy their involvement in that activity more. This study supports the idea that when students are more interested in what they are learning, then they are more motivated to actively participate in that experience. Troia, Harbaugh, Shankland, Wolbers, and Lawrence (2012) studied writing motivation in students between grades 4 through 8. Their research suggests that teachers should promote student interest in writing by using authentic writing purposes. Similar to Troia (et al., 2012) this study utilizes authentic writing formats for students to choose from based upon their interest in order to present their knowledge of classroom content.

During adolescence, students are becoming more independent and trying to find where, in society, they fit in. Erik Erikson refers to the adolescence stage (ages 12-18 yrs) as the Identity vs. Role confusion. The Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE, 2010) also acknowledges the importance of understanding the physical, emotional, and cognitive development with the middle level age group. While discussing curriculum, the AMLE (2010) states that it should “…help students make sense of their lives and the world around them, and when students are empowered to share in making significant, meaningful decisions about their learning” (pg. 21).

This particular study focuses on the theory of how providing students’ choice in writing format affects their attitudes towards writing, and if their writing preferences change after exposure to different formats. By offering choice in writing, students are given control over their learning and able to express their knowledge according to their preference. Hall and Axelrod (2014) suggest that teachers offer students the opportunity to write for different purposes and audiences in order to motivate them to develop a voice, and gain experience with writing different genres.

In Ohio, language arts educators are required to teach their students based upon the Ohio Language Arts New Learning Standards. Middle school students must learn how to write many genres including argumentative, informative/explanatory texts, narratives, research, and reflections. Argumentative writing encourages students to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence. Informatory texts requires students to examine texts and convey ideas, concepts, and information, then write an analysis based off of their interpretations. The narrative writing standards ask students to develop real or imagined events using figurative language and sequence. Research is a large standard, particularly in the 7th grade. Students must be familiar with utilizing online databases, and create essays or reports from their findings. Lastly, reflections are used for students to become familiar with relating themselves with the world around them. In this type of writing, students are encouraged to relate classroom content to their life.

The results of Hall and Axelrod (2014) study are similar to the theory used to create this research. In this study students were provided with different formats to choose from based upon their interests. These options aimed to provide students with experiences to work with different genres of writing, and encourage them become familiar with them. With time, students may become more motivated to create their writing, improving their attitude towards writing. This may also develop what Hall and Axelrod (2014) refer to as student “voice” (p. 46).

Providing choice in writing assignment allows students to be in control of their learning. This choice empowers students, and provides them with the opportunity to present their content knowledge based off of their interests and preferences. Research shows that motivation and attitude play a large role in a child’s learning experience. This study may encourage students to have positive attitudes’ towards writing, give students experience with various writing formats and genres, support them towards becoming comfortable with choice, and ultimately lead to a desire to write beyond what is required for 7th grade language arts.

Methodology

Description of participants

The participants of this research consisted of 20 students enrolled in a 7th grade language arts classroom. These students were enrolled in one of the teacher’s three 7th grade language arts classrooms. This particular classroom was selected for the study because the students had a higher attendance record compared to the other 7th grade ELA classes. All participants were between the ages of 11 and 13 years old, and attend regular education classrooms for all subject content areas. Their school is located in rural southeastern, Ohio and holds 6th, 7th and 8th grade students. This particular 7th grade class consists of 118 students, in which most students are considered to be economically disadvantaged. Due to the economic struggles of this community, the students in these classes tend to receive little academic support at home. For this reason, our school has an “After School” program. This program was funded through a grant, which provides our district with financial support in order to hold a program after school that students may attend if more academic support is needed. In this program students receive extra support including small classroom settings, as well as one- on- one interaction with teachers.

Writing Choice Boards

This study took place over a two week time period, in which students participated in writing choice interventions every other day, totaling to six days. The choice intervention was provided through what is being referred to as a writing choice-board. The writing choice board consisted of 7 writing format prompts including: informal letter, formal letter, poem, essay, critique, personal reflection, and fictional story. This board also implemented a “free space” which students can totally create their own format and prompt. During this time period, as a class students were reading the fictional novel, Bud, Not Buddy written by Christopher Paul Curtis (1999). Each choice board was created based off of the current chapter that was read that particular day in class. Students had the opportunity to pick a writing prompt based upon the content of the novel and format of his/her choice. The choice-board provided students with a visual to guide their writing and offered them control over what they wrote.

Data collection

Attitude surveys and exit slips served as the data sources for this study. Attitude surveys consisted of pre and post-surveys. These surveys begin with a Likert attitude scale in which students must read five statements and indicate with an X whether he/she “strongly agrees, somewhat agrees, neither agrees nor disagrees, somewhat disagrees, or strongly disagrees”. The statements included: I enjoy writing, I like to write when I am bored, I sometimes create my own writing pieces at home, writing makes me feel happy, and I don’t mind writing while at school. The statements, I enjoy writing, writing makes me feel happy, and I don’t mind writing while at school are more directly related towards attitude. The statements I like to write when I am bored, and I sometimes create my own writing pieces at home are less directed towards student attitude towards writing, and focus more on student identity. These statements refer to student preference in activity during a time when students are not required to create writing. This particular study does not focus on student identity, but does consider student responses in analysis and results. Both the pre and post-surveys asked students to mark with an X their most favorite writing format, and then write a response as to why this is his/her most favorite writing format. Both surveys then asked students to mark with an X their least favorite writing format, and then write a response as to why this is his/her least favorite writing format. Unlike the post-survey, the pre-survey asked students to put an X in each box marking each of the 7 writing prompts that they have created prior to this study.

Exit slips were used following the completion of each writing piece, totaling to six exit slips per student. Exit slips asked students to first mark the writing prompt they chose from the choice board for that day, and then state, “what did you like about this writing format?”, as well as “what did you dislike about this format”. The exit slips collected at the completion of each choice intervention contained three questions, two of which were open-ended.

Procedures

On the first day of this study, students were asked to fill out the pre-survey. Then the class read one chapter of the fictional novel, Bud, Not Buddy. Following the class read, students were introduced to the choice-boards, which all writing formats and prompts were read aloud to students, and encouraged to take their time choosing and writing their prompts. Students were given 3 minutes to decide on a writing format, and then given 10-15 minutes to create their writing. Researcher circled the classroom to check-in on the writing process and provided support as needed. Lastly, students were given the choice to share their writing with the class, and individually filled out the exit slips. This same process was repeated on days 2 through 5, read one chapter, provide choice intervention, and fill out exit slips. On the sixth/final day of research students also completed the post survey.

Throughout this procedure students were reminded that their writing pieces were not for a grade, but should show that they understand and comprehend what is currently happening in the class novel. Students were made aware that their writing would not be shared with anyone other than the teacher, unless he/she would like to share with the class. Some students occasionally read aloud their writing piece to the class. Students were encouraged to give only positive feedback, and all participants were provided with praise for participating. Students did not share information with peers regarding their surveys or exit slips. These were kept confidential and individually turned in to the teacher with only his/her assigned number to indicate identity. In order to improve objectivity, researcher would check-in with each student to see which writing format he/she chose to write about, check how their writing was coming along, and then assure that they recorded their choice of format correctly on the exit slip.

Data analysis

All participants in this study completed each of the six choice interventions, six exit slips, and both the pre and post-surveys. Following the class read of each chapter, students received their own copy of the choice-board for the day.

The pre and post surveys first presented a Likert scale that was used to determine student attitude towards writing. The pre and post surveys were first analyzed by identifying the percentage of students who overall agreed, neither agreed nor disagreed, or disagreed with each statement. Three of the five statements included in the Likert scale are directed towards student attitudes; however, two statements refer more to the students’ identity. The statements “I like to write when I am board,” and “I sometimes create my own writing pieces at home,” do not indicate attitude towards overall writing, but reference more of student preference in activity. Preference in activities is not something that is being studied throughout this research.  The pre survey then asked students to mark an X to indicate each writing format they have created before. The percentage of students who had experience with each format was recorded. Further, both surveys asked students to mark their most favorite type of writing to create. Each response was individually coded. Codes were compared and collapsed into four emergent themes including: Relatable, humor, freedom, and imagination. A similar question was also asked, which students recorded their least favorite type of writing, and why this is his/her least favorite. These student responses were analyzed and based on student response three common themes arose including: lack of freedom, time to write format, and uncomfortable with format requirements. Lastly, the post-survey asked students “How did the choice board help with your writing process?” Student responses were analyzed and two common themes suggested that choice boards either supported their writing process, or gave them choice in what they could write about.

The exit slips and surveys were helpful in the data analysis because they were completed immediately before and after each choice intervention was implemented. The open ended questions provided on both the exit slips and surveys allowed each student to express their opinion anonymously. Following the completion of exit slips, researcher recorded the frequency of formats chosen on that particular day, and consistency of student individual choices throughout the two weeks.

Limitations

One possible limitation of this Likert scale is student honesty. While most students seemed to enjoy this writing process, some students responded to the survey as if he/she did not; however, his/her behavior during choice intervention in class would express otherwise. These particular students often shared their writing pieces with the class, and acted as though writing made them feel happy, but responded otherwise in both the pre and post survey. This student attitude may be the result of social desirability. Miller (2012) explains social desirability as the idea that there are really “good” responses that people can have, and really “bad” responses that people can have. For example, students in this survey who typically have “good” behavior in class may choose a response that supports this behavior; whereas, students who have “bad” behavior in class may choose a response that supports their normal behavior. This suggests that for some students, they appeared to not enjoy the writing activity to fulfill social desirability.

Results

Pre-Survey

Using the Likert scale, students responded to five questions directed towards student attitude towards writing prior to the implementation of the choice intervention. Student responses are shared in Table 1. Students responses indicated that 15% of students strongly agreed with the statement “I enjoy writing”, 40% somewhat agreed, 30% of students neither agreed nor disagreed with this statement, and 5% somewhat disagreed with this statement, and 10% strongly disagreed. Out of 20 participants, 5% strongly agreed with the statement “I like to write when I am bored”, 40% somewhat agreed, while 20% neither agreed nor disagreed, 15% somewhat disagreed, and 20% strongly disagreed with this statement. When asked if they sometimes create writing pieces at home 30% of students strongly agreed with this statement, 25% somewhat agreed, 5% neither agreed nor disagreed, 5% somewhat disagreed, and 35% of students strongly disagreed that they create writing pieces at home. Student responses reported that 5% of students strongly agreed with the statement “writing makes me feel happy”, 30% somewhat agreed, 35% of students neither agreed nor disagreed, 15% somewhat disagree, and 15% of students strongly disagreed with this statement. Lastly, 10% of students strongly agreed with the statement “I don’t mind writing while at school”, 45% somewhat agreed, 20% of students neither agreed nor disagreed with this statement, 10% somewhat disagreed, and 15% of students strongly disagreed with this statement.

Table 1

Pre Survey: Attitude Scale

Strongly agree Somewhat agree  Neither agree nor disagree Somewhat disagree Strongly disagree
Statement: n % n % n % n % n %
I enjoy writing 3 15 8 40 6 30 1 5 2 10
I like to write when I am bored 1 5 8 40 4 20 3 15 4 20
I sometimes create my own writing pieces at home 6 30 5 25 1 5 1 5 7 35
Writing makes me feel happy 1 5 6 30 7 35 3 15 3 15
I don’t mind writing while at school 2 10 9 45 4 20 2 10 3 15

The pre-survey also asked students to report what writing formats they have created prior to this study.  Results reported that 100% of students have written poems, 65% have created informal letters, 50% have written formal letters, 100% of students have created fictional stories, 55% have written a personal reflection, 90% of students have completed an essay, and 10% of students have written a critique.

When describing why this was their most favorite type of writing to create, 25% of the students wrote statements such as “I can express my feelings”, or “I can relate to what I’m writing”, and were placed in the relatable category. 25% of students described their favorite type of writing as something they can “be funny with”, and were placed into the humor category. Students who discussed “having choice”, or ability to use different options were placed into the category of freedom, which included 25% of the students. Lastly, 25% of students discussed the ability to be “creative” and “use their imagination”; therefore, they were placed into the imagination category.

When describing their least favorite writing formats students wrote they “can’t write what they want” when they use this format, or “can’t put feelings into writing” were categorized under lack of freedom. This included 40% of the students. 55% of students reported that certain formats “took too long” to write, or “required a lot of writing”. Lastly, 5% of students who chose critique as their least favorite writing format reported that they “don’t like to correct others’ writing”; therefore, he/she was placed into uncomfortable with format requirements.

Post Survey

Identical to the pre survey, the post survey consisted of five questions directed to student attitude towards writing. Participants completed this survey following the two-week implementation of the choice intervention. Student responses indicated that 55% of students strongly agreed with the statement “I enjoy writing”, 20% somewhat agreed, 25% of students neither agreed nor disagreed with this statement, and no students somewhat or strongly disagreed with this statement. Out of 20 participants, 10% strongly agreed with the statement “I like to write when I am bored”, 55% somewhat agreed, while 5% neither agreed nor disagreed, 15% somewhat disagreed with this statement, and 15% strongly disagreed. When asked if they sometimes create writing pieces at home 35% of students strongly agreed with this statement, 25% somewhat agreed, 5% neither agreed nor disagreed, 5% of students somewhat disagreed, and 30% strongly disagreed. Student responses reported that 40% of students strongly agreed with the statement “writing makes me feel happy”, 25% of students somewhat agreed, 25% of students neither agreed nor disagreed, 5% of students somewhat disagreed, and 5% strongly disagreed with this statement. Lastly, 40% of students strongly agreed with the statement “I don’t mind writing while at school”, 40% somewhat agreed, 20% of students neither agreed nor disagreed with this statement, and no students somewhat or strongly disagreed with this statement.

Table 2

Post-Survey: Attitude Scale

Strongly agree Somewhat agree  Neither agree nor disagree Somewhat disagree Strongly disagree
Statement: n % n % n % n % n %
I enjoy writing 11 55 4 20 5 25 0 0 0 0
I like to write when I am bored 2 10 11 55 1 5 3 15 3 15
I sometimes create my own writing pieces at home 7 35 5 25 1 5 1 5 6 30
Writing makes me feel happy 8 40 5 25 5 25 1 5 1 5
I don’t mind writing while at school 8 40 8 40 4 20 0 0 0 0

According to the post survey, student attitude towards writing improved following the implementation of the choice boards. Focusing on the statement “I enjoy writing”, research shows an increase in student attitude (combining the strongly agree and somewhat agree statements) from 55% to 75%. When analyzing the statement “I like to write when I am bored” student responses showed an increase from 45% to 65% of students who agree with this. The statement “I sometimes create my own writing pieces at home” showed an increase from 55% to 60% of students who agree with this statement. In analyzing the statement “writing makes me feel happy”, this study showed an increase in attitude from 35% of students who agree, to 65% of students. Lastly, when presented with the statement “I don’t mind writing while at school”, student attitude initially reported 55% of students agreed with this statement, and following the choice board intervention 80% of students agreed. Overall, student attitudes toward writing improved.

Identical to the pre-survey, the post-survey asked students to report their most and least favorite types of writing formats to create. Student supported their choice with written explanations. The most favorite explanations were analyzed and common themes arose including: relatable, humor, imagination, and freedom. 10% of students suggested common themes of relating to their writing. The ability to use humor was found in 20% of student responses. 45% of students discussed “being free to write what I wanted”, and “having choice”; therefore, they were placed in the freedom category. Lastly, 25% of students reported that they enjoy the ability to “use imagination” to create their writing.

When describing their least favorite writing formats three common themes arose: lack of freedom, time spent creating format, and uncomfortable with format requirements. Post-survey results reported that 25% of students felt a lack of freedom in what they could write with this format. 55% of students stated that some formats “take too long to write”. Lastly, 20% of students reported that they are uncomfortable with the format. For example, student 11 reported that, “critique is my least favorite format because I think you shouldn’t judge others’ work, or ideas, and you should be able to write what you want without having someone judging you”.

The post survey also asked students, “How did the choice board help your writing process?” Two common themes arose in student responses. 55% of students reported that the choice board supported their writing process. For example, student 10 stated that the choice board “helped me know what I wanted to write about, and showed me which formats I liked and didn’t like”. The other 45% of students stated that the choice board gave them options, and allowed them to choose what they wrote about. For example, student 4 stated “the choice board helped me because I got to choose what I wanted to do, which made things more fun. It made me want to write more and helped bring out my imagination.”

Exit slips

Exit slips first asked students to record which writing format they chose to create that day. Students had eight total choices per day including: poem, informal letter, formal letter, fictional story, personal reflection, essay, critique and free write. Results show that following the two weeks of intervention, consisting of six research days 15% of students used the same writing format throughout, 35% of students used two different writing formats, 30% used three different writing formats, and 20% used four different writing formats. Although each format was created at least once when combining student reports, no students used more than four writing formats throughout the six-day period.

The second aim of this research was to identify what types of writing formats students initially prefer before the implementation of choice intervention, and if their preferences stay consistent throughout the choice process. Three out of twenty students used one writing format throughout this study. These three students also reported on both the pre and post-survey, that this particular format is their favorite. Pre and post survey results indicate that 40% of students did not change in their most favorite type of writing format to create following the choice intervention, and 60% of students did change their most favorite type of writing format following the choice intervention.

Discussion

The Likert attitude scales showed significant improvement from initial student attitude compared to final student attitude towards writing. The percentage of students who agree with the statement “I enjoy writing” had a 20% increase from pre to post survey.  When analyzing the statement “I like to write when I am bored” student responses showed an increase 20% of students who agree with this. The statement “I sometimes create my own writing pieces at home” showed an increase of 5% of students who agree with this statement. The statement “writing makes me feel happy” had an increase in 30% of students who agree with this statement. Lastly, the statement “I don’t mind writing while at school” had an increase of 25% of students who agree with this statement. The increase in the amount of students who agree with these statements supports the hypothesis that when provided with choice in writing format, students develop a more positive attitude towards writing. The results of this study are aligned with that of Jeffery & Wilcox (2013) study, in that both show a correlation between student opportunity to express subjective stances, and attitude towards writing.

A shift in attitude towards statements one, four and five were much larger than statements two and three. As previously stated, these two particular statements do not directly correlate with the intervention that took place during this study. These statements are directed more toward student preference in activity, rather than attitude towards writing. The three statements that showed a larger increase are more general, in that they relate more consistently with attitude towards writing.

When explaining why students prefer certain formats over others, four themes were analyzed. Relatable: students often reported that they enjoyed writing about things that relate to their lives. This type of writing reportedly made them feel “interested” in the novel. Just as Schiefele (1991) stated, incorporating student interest is a large part of developing motivation to participate. When people become interested in an activity, they are not only more likely to spend an extended amount of time on that activity, but seem to enjoy their time. Humor: many students’ utilized formats such as poems, and fictional stories to promote humor in their writing. These students often reported that this made writing more fun. Freedom: many students mentioned enjoying the ability to “choose” what they wrote about, and felt as though they had “control” over what they created. Both Hall and Axelrod (2014), and Sentürk and Oyman (2014) discuss student voice, and the excitement of students to participate in self-selected activities. The results of this study support their findings, and suggest that when students are provided with choice in the expression of their learning, they feel as though they have more control. Lastly, Imagination: some students discussed how in choosing their own prompt they became excited to create characters, behaviors, plots, and dialogue. Many stated that this made their writing “entertaining”, and sometimes “unpredictable”. These themes are similar to Sentürk, and Oyman (2014) who describe student responses towards democratic teaching methods. Their study discusses student responses relating to freedom, and ability to express thoughts. Throughout this study, students often used very similar language, and were motivated by these attitudes.

The consistency of student choice was identified using the exit slips. These results indicated that while some students did make consistent choices in writing format, 85% of students used two or more writing formats within the six days of research. Unlike Barney & Maughan’s (2015) study, these students described the choice boards as “a tool that helped them gain ideas on what they liked and didn’t like to write about.” Other students reported that the boards “made them think of new ideas to write about”.

Recommendations for further research

Although this study had significant results, there are many more aspects that should be analyzed in regards to student attitude towards writing. This research was performed over a two week time period; however, results may have changed if this study was extended to a longer time period. After prolonged exposure to choice in writing, students may not be as excited as the results reported in this study. Just like most school content, students become bored with repetition. Another recommendation is that researchers use a larger sample size. The majority of students in this particular study have the similar socioeconomic status’, similar home environments, and live in rural Ohio. It may be beneficial to perform this research in other non-rural areas.

Implications

The Ohio New Learning Standards require 7th grade students to work with specific types of text, and writing formats. With these very straightforward standards, it makes it hard for educators and students to have fun, and enjoy the content being learned in language arts. The results of this study identify one way that educators can improve student attitude specifically towards writing. By implementing choice in writing format, students have a better attitude towards writing, and possibly towards the content they are learning. If student attitude improves this may also improve student motivation, and interest. This research provides data that supports the idea that students should be provided with empowering education experiences, and chances to control their learning. Being in school for seven hours a day, five days a week is a great amount of time for adolescents to be inside. Educators must learn to spend their time wisely and to engage them in activities that involve their interests including humor, freedom, and imagination.

Choice in assignment and assessment is something that can be applied across curriculum. Whether it is a formative or summative assessment students should, at times, be provided with choices in how they present their content knowledge. Students vary cognitively and developmentally; therefore, when they get to choose how to present knowledge it will most likely be in a way that they enjoy and are comfortable with. If educators provide more choice within their classrooms, students may have more positive attitudes towards school in general, possibly leading to higher academic outcomes.

Conclusions

In conclusion, this research supports the hypothesis that student attitude towards writing improves when given the opportunity to choose what they write about. Students seemed to become more comfortable with writing formats, and the use of choice boards. As expected, students began this choice intervention with many questions, on what was required of them and their writing, how long it has to be, etc. Students were encouraged to interpret choice boards on their own, and create based upon their preferences. Results show that while few students did not vary in format choice, others were open to the idea of trying new writing, and reported that when given choice, they enjoyed writing more.

References

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Students’ Writing Attitudes. Journal Of Research In Education. 24(2). 34-50.

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Jeffery, J., & Wilcox, K. (2013). ‘How do I do it if I don’t like writing?’: Adolescents’ stances

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MATHEMATICS, SCIENCE AND SOCIAL STUDIES. Spring 2016-Ohio’s State Tests, 4, 1-99. Retrieved from http://education.ohio.gov/getattachment/Topics/Testing/Statistical-Summaries-and-Item-Analysis-Reports/Statistical-Summary-OST-Spring-2016.pdf.aspx

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Appendix A

Writing Choice Boards

Writing Choice Board- Day 1

All prompts should incorporate Bud, Not Buddy

Informal Letter

Write a letter from Bud to Jerry!

Poem

Write a Haiku!

Formal Letter

Write a letter from Bud to Mrs. Amos!

Personal Reflection

Write about a time where you felt like you were being blamed for someone else’s rude behavior.

FREE Write!

Create your own writing prompt!

Essay

The Great Depression

Describe the cause, effects, and result of the Great Depression.

Critique

Mrs. Amos should be more understanding because…

Poem

Write a limerick!

There once was a boy name Bud…

Fictional Story

“Aha, you doggone Amoses, that hurt, but now I get my revenge!”…

Writing Choice Board- Day 2

All writing should incorporate Bud, Not Buddy

Informal Letter

Write a letter from Bud to his Mother.

Poem

Write a poem describing the prank Bud pulled on Todd.

Formal Letter

Write a letter from Bud to the police, explaining why Todd deserved revenge.

Personal Reflection

Write about a time you pulled a prank on a friend or family member. What happened? How did you feel?

FREE Write!

Create your own writing prompt!

Essay

Why is it important to set rules for yourself?

Critique

Bud shouldn’t have pranked Todd because…

Personal Reflection

Just as Bud misses his mother, write about someone that you miss. Who are they? What do you miss?

Fictional Story

From Bud’s perspective:

As I was walking down the street carrying my suitcase I saw…

Writing Choice Board- Day 3

All writing should incorporate Bud, Not Buddy

Informal Letter

Write a letter from Bud to his “pretend” siblings. Explain how their parents made you feel.

Poem

Write a poem about Bud trying to get in line at the mission.

Formal Letter

Write a letter from Bud to the mission. Why should they hire you as a cook?

Personal Reflection

Write about a time when your parents/guardians made you do something that embarrassed you.

FREE Write!

Create your own writing prompt!

Essay

What is a mission? What do they do here? Why are these places important?

Critique

There was a man controlling the missionary line. Should he have been doing this? Why or why not?

Personal Reflection

Define your name! Just as Bud’s mother did, create a definition for your name.

Example:

Bud= a flower in waiting

Fictional Story

I said, “Yes, Momma, I mean, ma’am.” I watched them walking away…

Writing Choice Board- Day 4

All writing should incorporate Bud, Not Buddy

Informal Letter

Write a letter from Bud to Miss. Hill

Poem

Write a poem describing Bud’s thoughts about libraries.

Formal Letter

Write a letter from Bud to Miss. Hill

Personal Reflection

Bud describes the library in a very specific way. Write about a place you go to that entices your senses. Describe!

FREE Write

Create your own writing prompt!

Essay

Why are more children being put into the foster system at this point in time? Explain using your knowledge on the Great Depression.

Critique

Do you believe it was okay for the librarian to tell Bud where Miss. Hill went? Why or why not?

Poem

Chicago is too far away

If I leave I may go astray…

Fictional Story

“I’m looking for Miss Hill.” The librarian looked surprised. “Miss Hill? My goodness, hadn’t you heard?”…

 

Writing Choice Board- Day 5

All writing should incorporate Bud, Not Buddy

Informal Letter

Write a letter from Bud to Deza. Explain how she is making you feel.

Poem

Write a poem about Bud, and Bugs.

Formal Letter

Write a letter to the orphanage. Explain how uncomfortable you are with being around so many other kids.

Personal Reflection

Write about a time where you thought a person/thing was sneaking up on you, but it was nothing.

FREE Write

Create your own writing prompt!

Essay

Have you ever traveled on a train? What is the process of boarding a train?

Critique

Should Bud and Bugs jump on the train to travel west? Why or why not?

Poem

Write a poem about Deza Malone, and Bud.

Fictional Story

We got to the last four or five tin can plates and Deza said, “You ever kiss a girl at the orphanage?”…

 

Writing Choice Board- Day 6

All writing should incorporate Bud, Not Buddy

Informal Letter

Write a letter from Bud to Deza. Explain how she is making you feel.

Poem

Write a poem about Bud, and Bugs.

Formal Letter

Write a letter to the orphanage. Explain how uncomfortable you are with being around so many other kids.

Personal Reflection

Write about a time where you thought a person/thing was sneaking up on you, but it was nothing.

FREE Write

Create your own writing prompt!

Essay

Have you ever traveled on a train? What is the process of boarding a train?

Critique

Should Bud and Bugs jump on the train to travel west? Why or why not?

Poem

Write a poem about Deza Malone, and Bud.

Fictional Story

We got to the last four or five tin can plates and Deza said, “You ever kiss a girl at the orphanage?”…

Appendix B

Pre-Survey

Put an X in the box that most represents how much you agree with each statement below.

Statement: Strongly agree Somewhat agree  Neither agree nor disagree Somewhat disagree Strongly disagree
I enjoy writing
I like to write when I am bored
I sometimes create my own writing pieces at home
Writing makes me feel happy
I don’t mind writing while at school

Put an X below marking each writing format you have created.

 

Poem Informal Letter Formal Letter Fictional Story Personal Reflection Essay Critique

Which is your most favorite type of writing to create? Mark below with an X.

Poem Informal Letter Formal Letter Fictional Story Personal Reflection Essay Critique

Why is this your most favorite writing format?

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Which is your least favorite type of writing to create? Mark below with an X

Poem Informal Letter Formal Letter Fictional Story Personal Reflection Essay Critique

Why is this your least favorite writing format?

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Appendix C

Post-Survey

Put an X in the box that most represents how much you agree with each statement below.

Statement: Strongly agree Somewhat agree Neither agree nor disagree Somewhat disagree Strongly disagree
I enjoy writing
I like to write when I am bored
I sometimes create my own writing pieces at home
Writing makes me feel happy
I don’t mind writing while at school

Which is your most favorite type of writing to create? Mark below with an X

Poem Informal Letter Formal Letter Fictional Story Personal Reflection Essay Critique

Why is this your most favorite writing format?

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Which is your least favorite type of writing to create? Mark below with an X

Poem Informal Letter Formal Letter Fictional Story Personal Reflection Essay Critique

Why is this your least favorite writing format?

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

How did the choice board help your writing process?

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Appendix D

Exit Slip

Please answer the following question, and turn into teacher before leaving class today

  1. Put an X in the box to show what type of writing format you used today.
Poem Informal Letter Formal Letter Fictional Story Personal Reflection Essay Critique Free Write
  1. What did you like about this writing format?

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. What did you dislike about this writing format?

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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