Playing with the written word: Examining the impact of role to improve writing in a primary classroom.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Education
How can role be used to impact upon the motivation of student’s writing? Can learning in a creative context cause change in students’ writing? There is a body of literature that examines the use of drama to facilitate development in literacy, and some of it addresses writing. However, most of the classroom based studies in this literature have been undertaken by drama specialists who have extended their curriculum interests to broader fields such as social studies and literacy. Their work has offered a challenge to classroom teachers who are not drama specialists to explore and adopt relevant process drama approaches. This study has been conducted by one such teacher and as such it brings a new and different perspective to the research and to the growing body of knowledge. The current education system has placed strong importance on managing student levels of achievement in writing with the National Standards being introduced as a way of reporting student progress in this area as well as that of reading and mathematics. The Standards aim to make parents more aware of where their children sit in regards to the National levels. Consequently this thesis adopted an assessment format that incorporated the National Standards to assess change in surface and deeper features of writing. The students involved in the study were from one Year Five and Six classroom in a decile ten contributing school in Christchurch. They completed questionnaires at the beginning of the study and were interviewed at the end to survey their thoughts on writing and drama. The classroom teacher was also interviewed to gain her views on student levels of motivation in writing and their needs in the classroom. A series of lessons were then facilitated involving the use of process drama to encourage the students to think independently and tell a story through action before they put pencil to paper. Observations were written during each lesson documenting student responses and interactions to the drama and writing samples and student journals were also collected. A systematic analysis was completed on students’ writing to measure change in their writing features over time. These methods were also followed by the classroom teacher in order to measure reliability of the assessment. Writing samples and student feedback indicated strong improvement in motivation levels and engagement in each task through increased lengths of writing and use of subject-specific vocabulary and emotive language. Results also showed a creative teaching approach can be an effective facilitator of certain aspects of writing in children working at different levels and that the National Standards can be incorporated smoothly and reliably within this type of assessment. Overall, the findings from this study highlight the use of drama as an instructional tool in writing and support the conclusion that these strategies can be incorporated into the teaching of writing for more effective instruction.