Enjoyment of writing being raised through multimodal approaches

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This study took place in a county based Church of England primary school with around 240 pupils. The majority of the pupils come from a white British background and enter reception with an average ability for their age. The amount of children with special educational needs in the school is below the national average. The study was more specifically carried out among a mixed year 3/4 class of 32 pupils. However, data on the previous attainment of the pupils was only made available to me for 31 of the pupils as a new child had recently joined the class and this data was not available for analysis. The ability of the pupils of the class was varied ranging from two children with special educational needs (SEN), one specifically with speech and language problems and another with general learning disabilities, to children bordering gifted and talented. It was conducted during the spring term of 2010.

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This study explores the use of a variety of forms of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to engage and inspire pupils. More specifically ICT was used as a form of literacy that the children could read, interpret and study just as they would a print-based text. The motivation for exploring this area was based upon interesting points that emerged from initial data analysis of the children's literacy assessments. Appendix 1 shows a class list of reading and writing assessments, all names have been removed for anonymity but gender of the pupils is denoted by an 'M' for male and 'F' for female. As can be seen from this initial analysis, there is a huge range of abilities in the class including a number of boys who were assessed to be of a higher ability in writing than girls in the class. This is interesting because, attainment levels for Literacy across the age range from Primary to GCSE level have shown a distinct gap between genders, with girls scoring significantly higher. Data collected between 2002 and 2007 for children at Key Stage 2 showed a gap of "9 percentage points in favour of girls" (DCSF, 2009).

I was intrigued to find out more about the diversity in the class and decided to talk to the class teacher and some of the children informally about their feelings towards writing. The class teacher highlighted to me that the children who struggle with writing understandably find it frustrating. She commented that although some boys were very able writers she didn't feel like it was one of their favourite things to do, despite various methods used. Unsurprisingly, children (both boys and girls) who were levelled at a 1B or 1C in the previous assessments commented that they didn't enjoy writing as they found it difficult, especially with spelling and handwriting. The rest of the class had contrasting views; a high proportion of girls said that they enjoyed writing very much, whereas many boys said that they didn't. When I delved further into their reasoning I concluded that the main reason they didn't enjoy writing was down to two main reasons; the technicalities of writing discouraged them i.e. the need for neat hand-writing and the accuracy of spelling, and the lack of ideas they had for use in creative writing. From these preliminary findings I decided to embark on a program of literacy lessons that would address these issues. The rationale for this study is to improve my pedagogy of teaching writing by using ICT, with the three main aims of:

Monitoring and evaluating the levels of enjoyment of writing tasks throughout the class.

Raising levels of attainment, including extending high achievers by monitoring and tracking the needs of the class.

Teaching using a variety of learning methods including visual, auditory and kinaesthetic.

To do this literacy planning will follow a multimodal planning sequence taken from Bearne and Wolstencroft, 'Visual Approaches to Teaching Writing' (2007). This can be seen as appendix 3. An existing class method of evaluating enjoyment in lessons will continue to serve as my means of monitoring the enjoyment of the tasks. Attainment of pupils will be tracked using self-designed tracking grids and observations as well as the use of the DCSF Assessing Pupil Progress grids.

Literature Review

Over the last century technological advances have greatly impacted the way that we live and work; especially in the way that news, ideas and information is communicated. From the early 17th Century when newspapers and books fully went into production after the development of the printing press the way that we communicate has continued to grow and thrive upon new technology. From the development of books and newspapers; moving images, sounds and computer based communications have developed and merged to form the numerous and diverse ways in which we communicate today.

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Information nowadays comes from a variety of different sources around us such as television, radio, computer games and the internet. Being literate in the 21st century is now something more complex than just having the ability to read. We as adults, and increasingly children have to cope with information that arrives at us in varying forms from these sources as pictures, text, hyperlinks and sound; often layered upon one other. The words we have traditionally associated with books and hand-writing are now found everywhere in some digital format; computer screens, PDA's, mobile phones, digital displays in the street, even the number on the front of the busses is digital. In addition, connections between all of these digital technologies are expanding; you can watch TV on your computer, receive emails on your phone and make phone calls on your computer. Website addresses appear in newspapers and at the end of TV programs, listeners to radio stations send in their comments via email and digital TV is becoming as interactive as the internet. Digital texts and technologies surround us in the 21st Century everywhere we go, and children are equally if not even more aware of this and interacting with it. Recent research has found that 74% of 9-19 year olds in this country have internet access at home and 98% of all children have access somewhere in their locality with 40% of children and young people accessing the internet on a daily basis. School internet usage is almost in every school in the UK (92%) and it was concluded that 24% of children rely on school as their main source of internet access (Livingstone & Bober, 2005). This is a sharp contrast to when computers first came into classrooms a little over twenty years ago and were mainly used to word process and for a small amount of CD-ROM based research.

Many research projects have highlighted the benefits of the use of ICT including the Docklands Learning Acceleration Project (DLAP). The DLAP organised by the National Literacy Association was a large project involving 500 pupils in 15 schools. Its main focus was to improve literacy skills through the use of ICT. After 2 years of running, using at the time the most current multi-media and portable technology, the children made 23 months progress in reading (National Literacy Association, 1995). Although significant improvements in the children's literacy skills were shown, the technology was used as the 'teacher'. Children were assessed and guided through the learning sequence by the machine with little input from a teacher except for their everyday teaching. The project was supported by a range of other teaching methods including the use of drama, poetry and stories to support the children's literacy skills. Comparing the exposure the child would of had to these teaching methods in comparison to the daily commitment of 20 minutes on the machine leaves the results in question of how much improvement was due to the ICT.

Despite these flaws, early research such as this began to get ICT noticed as a valuable tool in education. In 1997 the Labour party commissioned the Stevenson Report, which looked at the use of ICT in British Schools and made recommendations for future practice. Besides highlighting the use of ICT in a number of practical ways such as for administration of schools and to prepare students with skills for the workplace, they also commended the use that ICT could contribute to transforming the learning and teaching process (DfEE, 1997). Following on from projects such as the DLAP, ICT began to take a more active role besides the teacher as a tool for enhancing learning.

Since then the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA) estimate that the overall figure for ICT investment in UK schools between 2001 and 2004 was £1 Billion (BECTA, 2004 cited in Hall & Higgins, 2005 p.102). Whilst the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) reports the investment in Interactive Whiteboards alone at £50 Million (DfES, 2004 cited in Hall & Higgins, 2005 p.103). Despite this massive investment Selwyn and Bullon (2002) reported that primary school children's "patterns of sustained and varied engagement with ICT are rare". The initial confidence in ICT for raising attainment levels also has little supporting evidence. A study by BECTA (2000, cited in Higgins, 2003 p. 5) found no link between the ICT resources a school had and the attainment levels of pupils at KS1 in 1999. A very small but weak link was found between ICT resources and attainment at KS2 but concluded that ICT was responsible for only around 0.5% of achievement. Similarly weak links were also found in a survey conducted for the Teacher Training Agency of England (TTA), however the researchers concluded that the link was not due to the mere presence of ICT resources but the effective use of them by the teachers (Mosely et al. 1999 cited in Higgins, 2003 p. 6). Studies like this one have begun to once again transform the way that the world of education views ICT. From highlighting the benefits of simply having it in the classroom to pointing out that this simply isn't enough and the way that the teacher utilises it plays the most critical role. Hall and Higgins (2005), in their report on students' perceptions of interactive whiteboards commented that incorporating "ICT requires demanding changes in classroom organisation, curricula and pedagogy". Teachers were criticised in a report by Tondeur, Van Braak, and Valcke (2006) of teaching ICT and technical skills but not integrating ICT into the curriculum. Beauchamp (2004), described the skills that the teacher needs to have to be able to integrate ICT effectively into teaching as being a "synergistic user" and having an "interactive teaching style" with the ICT.

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A new way of teaching, but how can this fit in with existing curricula subjects? The Essex Writing Project (2003), succesfully took the use of ICT in the subject of Literacy and found that using ICT to challenge and redefine what a 'text' is could improve both engagement and attainment in literacy. Adopting a multimodal approach meant that they could combine the use of words, with pictures, sounds or digital interaction to enhance the text and improve writing.

Multimodal texts are "texts that combine word, image and often sound and have been made possible through digital technology" as defined by Waugh and Jolliffe (2008, p. 31). Eve Bearne an influential writer on the topic of multimodality describes how we need to change what literacy involves to include a variety of modes with not just words but moving images and sounds (Bearne, 2004). The amount of these on-screen texts has particularly increased due to advances in technology to include 3D-animations, websites, DVD's and games which all form part of our popular culture. Many modern day parents use these texts to introduce very young children to some form of literacy even before they start school. These can include interactive toys and games as well as the use of television and film. Anne Haas Dyson (2001, cited in Waugh & Jolliffe, 2008 p. 30) describes this as a 'patchwork quilt' of children's literacy development. Children experience a vast range of text-types through ICT before they enter school, even before they can read. Studies have gone on to show that children when in school prefer to read, view and play the types of texts that they enjoy at home (Marsh & Millard, 2005). However, previously cited research states that these text-types available through ICT means are not being fully exploited in UK primary schools.

The use of pictures in varying forms, which can be enabled in the class through ICT, can be a highly effective tool for readers of all ages. Arizpe and Styles (2002) investigated how children between the ages of 4 and 11 read pictures and found that in addition to providing access to a story that younger or less competent readers wouldn't otherwise be able to, the visual imagery can be better than spoken or written language in evoking an emotional response. The study found that children are actually very competent at analysing the visual features of texts and with the guidance of a teacher have the opportunity of functioning at a higher cognitive level. This ethos is echoed from Bruner's line of thinking regarding children's development. He believed that children pass through a set of three stages regarding their cognitive ability, however, the stages overlap in places. Simply, the child first uses enactive representation to make sense of the world around them, mainly using physical interaction as the basis of their thinking. Then they progress to using iconic representation, where at around 2 years of age the child begins to use images to think and store knowledge. Finally, the child reaches the stage of symbolic representation where the child can think and act symbolically (Bruner, 1966). Using visual images can aid a child who is not relating to a word-based text by stepping back into the iconinc representation stage, enabling them to see and 'read' the text in a way which is comfortable and familiar to them. This could also link not only to the use of pictures in the form of a picture book or piece of art, but to include the developments of this, i.e. the moving image; a piece of film, television, drama or even a computer game. Stimulating as many of the children's own personal experiences from outside of school can have many benefits. Marsh and Millard (2000) found that children often tap into their cultural knowledge of TV and other genres and can mix them up during writing, adopting syles or conventions from computer games, TV programs or films. They often found that they use genres familiar to them and can also improve home-school links. By including popular culture when teaching literacy we are clearly linking it to children's everyday experiences; it is meaningful and motivational to children.

The use of ICT in schools has been well-established in UK primary schools for some time now, but the integration of it into other Curriculum subjects as a tool is one that is less understood. Utilising the ICT resources in various ways can maximise the benefit to the learners, by equipping the teacher with tools to explain, model and demonstrate with. Within the subject of literacy, ICT can be used to explore imagery and texts to benefit learners of all stages. This study aims to evaluate the use of ICT in this way and examine the impact it has upon attainment and enjoyment of writing within a class of Year 3/4 pupils. However its aim is not to evaluate the ICT resources themselves but their effectiveness as tools to aid the teacher in their pedagogy.

Methods and Procedure

Resources and Equipment

Survey of classroom multimodal text provision

Text type

Foundation Stage

Year 1/2

Year3/4

Year5/6

Picture Books

4

3

2

0

Comics and Graphic novels

1

2

1

1

Magazines

2

2

0

0

CD-ROM's

3

3

3

3

Internet Sites

0

2

3

4

Leaflets and adverts

1

0

0

0

DVD's and Videos

3

3

2

2

Non-Fiction Books

2

3

3

3

Audio Texts

2

1

0

0

Art-work, maps

1

2

2

3

Interactive/digital games

3

2

1

2

Total Score

22

23

17

18The study began by finding out what multimodal texts were available within the school. The results from this provided me with information as to what was available and commonly being used in each year group. The structure for the survey was taken from Bearne & Wolstencroft, 'Visual Approaches to Teaching Writing', (2007), however the addition of the text-type 'interactive/digital games' was added by myself. To include quality as well as quantity of the resources I developped a Likert Scale for scoring each year group, this can be seen below. Each of the classrooms in the school were surveyed and the results presented below are collated together by year group.

Likert Scale 0-5

0 = no evidence

1 = single piece of evidence

2 = odd occurrence of evidence or quality or usage is poor

3 = good usage or resources

4 = very good usage and variety of resources

5 = excellent and maximum usageA table showing the quantity and use of multimodal resources across the different classes in the school. Scores are based on a Likert Scale 0-5.

Details of Whole-School ICT resources

Details of the whole school resources available were listed by working with the ICT Co-ordinator.

Computer Suite - 24 Computers. Microsoft Windows XP Operating System. CD-Drive. Microphone and Headphones.

Colour laser printer

Data Projector and Promethean Interactive Whiteboard in each classroom.

Digital Still Camera for each Key Stage

Set of 16 Mini-book laptops on portable trolley.

32 Sony PSP game stations

3 Visualisers

4 Digital Blue Camcorders + Software

5 Flip-cams +software

8 Speak-easy USB Microphones

Whole-school subscription to Expresso

Learning Platform - Fronter

Analysing the results I could see that picture books, CD-ROM's and DVD's were the most common multimodal text type at KS1. Foundation stage were found to have to have the greatest amount of resources listed in the survey and made good use of these resources however, year 1 and 2 classes had the greatest range of material. KS2 classes were found to have significantly less different types of resources and mainly relied on internet information as their main multimodal resource.

After analysing these results I could see that my focus class (year 3/4) was one of the classrooms with the least multimodal text types used. They had few multimodal resources besides internet usage on the Interactive whiteboard with some accompanying CD-ROM's. There are no computer facilities in the classroom. I used this data to plan what equipment and/or resources I would use within my series of lessons. The secondary factor that would influence my choice of resources was the children's own personal experience of multimodal texts outside of school. I used a survey to obtain data from the children as to what text-types they used at home.

To obtain this information I used an existing survey taken from Bearne & Wolstencroft, 'Visual Approaches to Teaching Writing' (2007). Only my focus class were involved in this survey. All children took part in the survey at the same time and was intorduced to them so that they understood what was required of them. The text-types that I surveyed were; comics, magazines, television, computer games, the internet, e-mails, texting, books with only words, books with pictures and newspapers. Children placed a tick by any of the text-types they used at home. I collated these results to find the most popular types used at home. The results were as follows:

A graph showing the amount of children who use the selected text-type outside of school.

It became apparent to me through these results that the children very heavily relied on television, the internet and computer games as their main source of multimodality. For the purposes of this study computer games are referred to as all PC and Mac computer games, Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo DS and PSP games.

The development and availability of resources for deploying this model of teaching were an important factor in this research project. The resources and equipment were carefully selected following the initial research on the preferences and experiences of the children as well as what was available to use from the school and my own personal resources. The equipment and resources I decided to use were:

Personal teaching laptop (CD and DVD drive, graphics and sound, ability to plug in microphone)

Promethean Interactive whiteboard (with Speakers)

Digital visualiser

Speak-easy microphones

Set of 15 Mini-laptops with internet access

DVD extracts - 'The Chronicles of Narnia. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' and 'The Wind in the Willows'.

Audio Text - 'The Chronicles of Narnia'

Set of plug-in microphones (enough for one per laptop).

Range of internet websites.

Planning and Teaching

The multimodal planning and teaching sequence created by Eve Bearne in 2002 has been used in many important research projects looking at the use of multimodal texts in teaching including the Essex Writing Project (2002-2005). This was the model that I chose to follow whilst planning my lessons involving multimodality. The version for both fiction and non-fiction texts was used as a unit of each was to be used during the study. The planning sequence is divided up into seven sections, these all fall within the three main phases of the process of writing.

Becoming familiar with the text type

Reading, talking and looking at different texts and associated media.

Discuss structure, content and common features.

Drafting, revising and proof reading

Explain how different choices of mode affect the text.

Use ICT to draft and collaborate ideas, as well as proof-reading.

Presenting

Present ideas in various formats including written, spoken and performance.

Evaluate own and others final pieces.

Each part of the sequence allows for development and usage of multimodal stimuli and equipment, including film extracts, pictures, interactive web-sites and a variety of recording modalities including writing, pictorial representation and voice recording. The units of literacy planned in this way were; narrative Unit 2B (Fiction) 'Stories set in imaginary worlds' and the year 4 non-fiction Unit 1 (Recounts) Newspapers and magazines. Within each of these units a variety of multimodal resources were used to stimulate the children. Planning through all three phases of this led to the children having a published outcome. The flexibility of the Multimodal Planning and teaching Sequence meant that where time was short certain sections could be altered in the amount of detail they were entered into. The aim was for each of the lessons to include at least one-type of multimodal text or method of recording. These could include: pictures, sounds, film, voice recording and website use. The medium term plan for the narrative unit 2B, Stories set in imaginary worlds can be seen as appendix . Use of multimodal and ICT resources are highlighted in bold.

Ethics

At the beginning of the study both the full-time class teacher and the head teacher were informed of the study. After they had given approval for it to go ahead, I gave the rest of the staff a short briefing into what I would be looking at to give them some background to the classroom observations that I made. Before any research took place it was necessary to gain the consent of all the children's parents or guardians. This is because legal responsibility of any minor under the age of 16 lies with the parent or law assigned guardian. This was gained through a letter to parents detailing the nature of my placement and the focus of my study. Parents were informed also of the way that the study was due to be conducted and that it would not negatively affect the children's education in any way. They were also reassured that any data about their child that was collected during the study would be held in confidence in line with the Data Protection Act (1998). For child protection, recording of any lessons was made on all school based equipment and stored on the school premises.

Data Collection

To form the main body of the study, data was collected at certain intervals of the research. At the beginning, data was collected regarding the children's writing attainment levels from December 2009. This would go on to serve as the baseline to measure any progress upon. This was collected as National Curriculum levels (1A, 1B etc.). At the end of the series of lessons a sample of randomly selected children were assessed for progress against the baseline assessment. This assessment was made using the Assessing Pupil Progress system and was moderated by the class teacher to ensure accurate assessments were made by me. Throughout the series of lessons, the opinions of the children were collected to form the data to measure the enjoyment of the children. They did this by using a tick, cross or dot system that was already in place in the class. This meant that the children were already used to this evaluative system and provided me with data from previous lessons to compare to my multimodal based lessons. If the children enjoy the lesson they place a small tick at the bottom of the page, if they were not that enthused by the lesson they place a dot, and if they really disliked the lesson they place a cross. Data on this element was collected throughout the study.

Analysis and Interpretation of evidence

Analysis of attainment

Base-line data

I used assessments made by the class-teacher from December 2009 to form a base-line assessment upon which I would measure any progress. The results from that data collection were as follows:

Table 1- Children's Writing Levels December 2009

From analysis of the baseline data I concluded that there was a range of ability in the class. Contrary, to the national average, the most talented writers in the class mainly consisted of boys; however girls formed the majority of the higher levels.

Assessment data

At the end of the unit an assessment of the children's writing levels was made. The work was analysed and marked according to the DCSF Assessing Pupil Progress sheets. A sample of the children's work was collected for analysis at this level. 8 girls and 7 boys from across the class were selected to be a representative sample of the class. These were randomly chosen. An example of a piece of work and APP grid can be found as appendix .

Table 2 - Sample of children's writing levels February 2010The results were as follows:

The amount of children who made progress by 1 sub-level when compared to the December 2009 levels was 4/15 or 27%. However these results do not show that only 27% of children made progress. Many others showed significant progress in various aspects of writing and can be seen through qualitative data and observations.

Qualitative data and Observations

Overall I found that the children's stories were written with more detail and creativity by using familiar structures in their texts. Many children used the context of a computer game to structure their story after looking at some of these structures during a lesson. This added questions, character descriptions and action that improved the quality of their work greatly. An example of this can be found as appendix . Tracking grids that show levels of writing skills before and after the unit can be found as appendix . These show the levels of writing that I observed before teaching this unit and compared them to a piece of work written at the end of the unit0

.

Analysis of enjoyment

I used the children's books and took a random sample of 10 previous lessons that I had not taught. I analysed the enjoyment criteria they used at the end of each lesson to inform the teacher how much they enjoyed the lesson. I found that on average the children rated the lesson as a tick (very enjoyable) 68% of the time. At the end of my research I carried out the same procedure for my own lessons and found that children rated their enjoyment as a tick (very enjoyable) 92% of the time. After this I analysed the content of each of these lessons and identified the main teaching method. I concluded that the lessons that were rated as more enjoyable were the ones that involved the use of computers and laptops, and the use of popular film extracts.

Conclusion

It was found in this study that the use of multimodal texts in literacy can make an improvement on the class attainment and enjoyment. It was found that the use of these types of texts has a 27% increased rate of improvement by one National Curriculum sub-level. The level of enjoyment during lessons also increased by 24%. These findings are in-line with what has been found by numerous other studies, confirming that children respond well to the use of text types used outside of school and that when enabled to, children will use their personal experiences to fuel their creative writing. Overall the children were more focused in whole class and group discussions, showed less delay in approaching tasks and were more eager to participate. They showed more willingness to edit and improve work, used more adventurous language and story conventions and responded well to activities which give them greater choice in creating texts. Children were quick to respond to challenges in ICT and had a good knowledge of how to use a computer which aided their work and enjoyment. Children who had previously commented that they found writing difficult were motivated by opportunities to record and respond in multiple modes of communication and were more involved with class discussions and the work itself. By using a range of recording methods such as recording their questions on small portable microphones meant that their lack of ability in writing did not hinder them in class. They were more confident and the reliance on the learning support assistant was minimal during the multimodal lessons increasing the independence of the children. I feel that the biggest difference was seen in those children with low attainment, although it did have some impact on all of the children in the class.

I have learnt much from conducting this study. I will definitely use what I have already learnt about multimodal text types as well as extending my knowledge to new text types and resources. I feel that that this research could have great bearing on the teaching of those children with difficulties in reading and writing as well as those who are under-motivated to read and write for pleasure. As much of the literature is focused on improving boys writing I did most definitely see an improvement from the boys in the class, however this was in no way exclusive and found that the interventions, with the right material, were just as effective for motivating girls as it was boys.

I found my method of investigation to be an effective one, with minimal difficulty in obtaining data. I found planning the text types into the unit a little difficult at first due to the short amount of time from arriving at the school to teaching the lessons. If I was to repeat the study I would have been prepared and known further in advance which resources I wanted to use at various points along the unit. Further lines of enquiry that I would be interesting in researching is the more detailed benefits of using different types of texts that I could not include in this study, including video games and hand-held portable devices such as I-Phones. I would also be interesting at looking more closely at the benefits of using multimodal texts can have on those children with learning difficulties, particularly in those children with reading and writing difficulties. Finally I would be interested in researching the effect that multimodal texts can have on other subjects such as numeracy.

Word Count - 4,641

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