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What do students say about writing?

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Most of us would agree on the importance of listening to student voice when developing and implementing a classroom programme.  

In the context of an instructional writing programme, this means finding out: 

  • How do my students feel about writing?  
  • How do they feel about themselves as writers?  
  • How do they feel about the writing instruction they receive at school?  

Finding out answers to these questions is an integral part of planning and running a writing programme that motivates and engages students and addresses their developing needs. 

During 2017-2018 Professor Judy Parr and myself, along with a group of literacy leaders based in Auckland and Wellington, surveyed 449 Year 5-8 students from five diverse schools around these questions.  We were particularly interested in finding out whether there were attitudinal differences between students in relation to their age/year level, gender and ability level.  We also wanted to explore how student attitudes to writing could affect teacher practice.  

The most interesting findings we uncovered related to: 

  • How much more positive girls felt about writing and about themselves as writers compared to boys. 
  • Both boys’ and girls’ huge preference for writing fiction or creative rather than non-fiction or informational texts.
  • How many students (particularly girls) did not like having their writing read by others. 
  • How important being able to ‘write on topics that are interesting to me’ and ‘being given choice in what I write about and how I write’ are as teachers’ instructional strategies for students.

Results of this survey were published in 2019 as Portrait of the student as a young writer: some student survey findings about attitudes to writing and self-efficacy as writers in the UK Literacy Association’s journal Literacy vol.53 no. 4 pages 226-235. 

As a result of reading and thinking about this article, several New Zealand schools have used the survey tool in the article to survey their own students’ attitudes to writing and writing instruction.  Among them is Eastern Hutt School, a large high-decile Year 1-6 school in Lower Hutt.  By surveying their Year 4-6 students (n=282), they uncovered equally interesting results which they were able to share with teachers.  Furthermore, they were able to make comparisons between their findings and the findings we published in the Literacy journal.

A report of what they did and what they found is available to download here.  You might want to read their report with a view to undertaking your own survey and comparing their results to your results.  What makes the difference?

 Download the PDF here


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