DURHAM DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD

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1 DURHAM DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD MISA REPORT TEXT MESSAGING: DECODING THE AUTHOR S INTENTION THROUGH TEXT FEATURES Dr. C.F. Cannon Public School Essential Question: What was the Author s Purpose in creating this Text? Use evidence from the text and your own ideas to support your answer. Background: In December of 2008 the staff at Dr. C.F. Cannon undertook an action research project that would improve student reading at the intermediate level. This project had a specific focus on boys and their identification and understanding of text forms, features, and stylistic elements to assist them in deciphering meaning. The project was derived from the school wide focus on non-fiction literacy. This project was undertaken as both school level and provincial assessment data has historically demonstrated that our students (specifically boys) score low on reading assessments. Data also indicates that boys at Dr. C.F. Cannon have low confidence levels with regards to reading and often limit reading activities to in school. Special points of interest: Our boys are not confident about their literacy abilities Boys tend to find nonfiction more enjoyable and easier to read Some students found regular text easier to read compared to graphic text One hundred and twenty grade 7 and 8 students were involved in the study, 68 male students and 52 female students. Quantitative data was gathered from ongoing assessments, work samples, and reading attitude surveys.

2 P AGE 2 M ISA FINAL REPORT Through the topic of Heroes, the aim of the project was to initiate high levels of student interest in reading by using local and international hero figures that students are familiar with, can relate to, and are interested in. Through this form of writing, we explicitly taught the students to identify and effectively use a variety of reading strategies to uncover the author s meaning. A focus was placed on why the author used the particular types and varieties of text forms, features, and stylistic elements to convey his message and why. Although our goal was to engage the boy readers and set them up for success with regard to literacy skills, the strategies used also represent practices that enhanced the learning environment for both male and female students. Our lessons included talk-time, visual cues, immediate response, use of positive role models, nonfiction text, and the use of graphic organizers. Cool! We are going to get to read this!! The way it looks makes me want to read it more Darien : Grade 8 reluctant reader Data Collection Methods and Analysis Pre-lesson Discussions After deciding to use magazines at an earlier meeting, the Intermediate Division utilized the Nelson Literacy and Top Ten magazines already in our school library to carry out the project. The team then discussed what it means to be a hero and decided that there is a broad definition of the word Hero, especially in the minds of young adolescents. The range of contemporary heroes included Rap-

3 D R. C.F. CANNON PUBLIC SCHOOL P AGE 3 pers, Sports Figures, War Veterans and Youth Activists. The team then selected several differing non-fiction articles focusing on various Heroes. The articles were made into transparencies and posters that teachers used in their explicit teaching of text features. The team also determined that the posters would be kept up throughout the project as an anchor chart reference and as a visual reminder of the effective use of various text features to convey meaning. A graphic organizer was developed to support and help organize student ideas generated in the lesson. In the graphic organizer, students could expand upon and find examples of different forms of text features in the various non - fiction articles (i.e., Graphic Organizer used by students to organize, document thoughts, and create discussion in regards to the author s font, Text Art, pictures, captions, etc.). Students would then explore what message the author is attempting to convey through each form. The following questions were included in the chart: List the Text Features, What is the Author s Purpose in Using this Feature, Facts Learned from the Feature, It Was / Wasn t Effective Because, and finally, What other Features could the Author have Used and Why? The team worked in conjunction with Creative Services at the Durham District School Board to develop the graphic organizer. Poster sized graphic organizers were created for each intermediate classroom. During the lesson, students were given the large sized organizers to work with. The staff hoped working with such professional resources would help generate excitement and interest within the group. Student sized graphic organizers were developed at the school level for individual use by the students. The team also designed a culminating task incorporating both the students personal hero and text features. To incorporate differentiated instruction into the project, students were given choice on the format in which they presented their heros to the class.

4 P AGE 4 M ISA FINAL REPORT Pre and Post Diagnostic In order to find out prior knowledge and student attitudes, a pre-diagnostic test and an online survey were given to all grade seven and eight students. The survey was used to determine student attitudes towards reading. The questions provided information regarding the students knowledge of text features and their meaning. The same survey and questions were completed by the students at the end of the project to determine if it had resulted in any attitudinal changes in regards to reading, and to determine the success of the lessons focusing on text features, and the author s purpose in creating the text. To accommodate reluctant writers, Audacity was used, rather than writing, to record verbal answers to the following question: List the text features the author used in the article, What was the author s purpose in creating this text? Use evidence from the text and your own ideas to support your answer., Do you think the text features are effective? Why or why not?, If you were the author what text features would you have used? Sample questions from Reading Attitude Survey 2009 Dr. C.F. Cannon P.S. Students were asked to select either strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree as a response. Students were given 17 questions in all. 1. I am in Grade 7 /I am in Grade 8 2. I am a boy / I am a girl 3. I enjoy listening to someone read aloud. 4. I like to talk about ideas and information after I have read 5. I enjoy reading at home 6. I think non-fiction is easier to read than fiction 7. Other people think I am a good reader 8. I read for enjoyment 9. I only read to do schoolwork As they get older, boys increasingly describe themselves as non-readers. Few have this attitude early in their schooling, but, according to some experts, nearly 50% describe themselves as non-readers by the time they enter secondary school (Me Read? No Way!)

5 D R. C.F. CANNON PUBLIC SCHOOL P AGE 5 Results and Findings Given that there was a significant improvement in the student Text Feature Written Survey for both boys and girls, it is reasonable to say that the text feature lessons themselves did indeed improve the students abilities to identify and derive meaning from a wide range of text features. For example, with the first question of simply identifying various text features, the pre-test showed that girls averaged 60% in levels 3 and 4 and boys averaged 75% in levels 2 and below. In the post test, the girls average was 100% in levels 3 and 4 and the boys averaged over 90% in levels three and four. In question two, What do you think was the purpose in using these text features? Use evidence from the text and your own ideas to support your answer?, the pre-test showed that girls averaged 48% in levels 3 and above. The boys averaged 90% in levels 2 and below. The post test indicated excellent results; the girls averaged 75% in levels 3 and above and only 25% in levels 2 and below. The boys averaged 60% in levels 3 and above and 40% in levels and below. The student s ability to use evidence from the text to support their answers was greatly improved. The team believe that allowing the boys talk time made a significant difference in this area. Questions three, Do you think the text features are effective? Why or why not?, also revealed interesting results. The pre-test showed that the girls split their results 50% in levels 2 and below and 50% in levels 3 and above. The boys averaged 92% in levels 2 and below. The post test indicated excellent results, the girls averaged 88% in levels 3 and above while the boys averaged 85 % in levels 3. In question 4, If you were the author, what text features would you have used?, again demonstrated significant results. The pre-test results show the girls had only 20 % in level three and above, as compared to more than 80% in levels three and above in the post test. The boys who had less than 10% in levels 3 and above in the pre-test, had more than 70% in levels 3 and above in the post test.

6 M ISA FINAL REPORT P AGE 6 I feel good about how quickly I read. GIRLS BOYS I like to talk about ideas and information after I have read something. GIRLS BOYS While our Post Reading Attitude Survey Results did not yield significant results, (generally expected given the short period of time for this mini-unit), there were some interesting similarities, and one interesting difference by gender. The three similarities for both genders showed increases from pre to post test in the areas of feeling good about how quickly they read, enjoying talking about ideas and information after they have read something, and that students read to find out new information and facts. Letting boys in on the Secret Boys need to be let in on the secret of what happens when we read and write. We need to examine processes that are often hidden or left unspoken and make them clear and explicit (Me Read? No Way!) The difference between genders occurred in the area of non-fiction being perceived as easier to read than fiction. The survey revealed while the girls opinion decreased on this topic, the boys opinion increased, meaning the girls found non-fiction more difficult to read while the boys found it much easier (20% increase) overall. Given the attitude survey was taken a mere 2 weeks apart after a mini-unit using non-fiction text, we did not expect to find dramatically significant differences in the students overall attitude toward reading. However, we were pleased with the overall improvements of our boys. In summary, boys increased their reading confidence levels, enjoyment of discussion after reading, desire to read to learn about new topics, and their perception of non-fiction being easier to read. Given that this data was an improvement in several of the areas we knew our boys struggled with, we are happy with the results of the unit and the students enjoyment and engagement with the subject matters. I read to find out about new things. GIRLS BOYS I think non-fiction is easier to read than fiction. GIRLS BOYS

7 P AGE 7 D R. C.F. CANNON PUBLIC SCHOOL Lesson Study Model "Learning is a social process that occurs through interpersonal interaction within a cooperative context. Individuals, working together, construct shared understandings and knowledge." David Johnson, Roger Johnson and Karl Smith Reflection and actions The team used the lesson study model to ensure student engagement and develop the best possible unit plan. During the introductory lesson, several members of the team observed how the students reacted while their teacher delivered the lesson. From these observations, modifications were made to the lesson plan. These changes were then implemented with the next class. Initially some members of the team were hesitant to have others watch as they taught. However, this experience was positive and produced valuable insight into student learning. The time for professional collaboration was greatly valued by the team. Similar to students experiencing talk time, teachers felt that the ability to conference, work, and learn together, was invaluable. The intermediate team will continue to work together as a collaborative unit. Since the results of the unit were successful, the intermediate team would like to move forward from the gains made during this study on text features by developing another unit plan. This unit plan would focus on transferring the students newly developed skills of interpreting text features to academic text books. The students need ongoing practice to develop the ability to transfer the skills they have learned during this past unit into their academic studies. The students in our Intermediate division need to become more proficient and effective readers to meet the demands of secondary school. As a school, we need to increase the self confidence of our boy readers. As teachers, we need to show them that reading can be enjoyable and interesting. They need to understand that talking about what they have read is almost as important as reading itself. By engaging them with interesting and debatable topics we can allow them to feel comfortable with this process of reading and talking. This strategy would provide the scaffolding for the jump to more challenging texts and subject matters.

8 M ISA FINAL REPORT P AGE 8 contributions to MISA professional network We hope our strategies to hook male readers using nonfiction text from a variety of sources, partnered with our simple data collection and analysis strategies and results, can assist other schools and boards in improving the reading scores of students who score low on reading assessments. We also hope to learn from others through the MISA Network. Suggestions for Future Research Some suggestions for future research would be: Use of a control and experimental group possibly in different schools to further verify data Transferring the knowledge of text features and author s intentions learned in this unit to academic textbooks in other core subjects Unfortunately, due to logical issues Audacity was not used to record student answers, future research would work to resolve these issues Project Completed By: Elizabeth Heath - Vice-Principal Jennifer Fitzgerald - Intermediate SERT Heath Hough - Intermediate SERT /Grade 8 Jessie Zalewski Grade 7 Rachel Adams - Grade 7 Jonathan Ross Grade 8 Margo Hett Librarian Robert Lemere - Grade 7/8 (Team Contact) Durham District School Board 400 Taunton Road East Whitby, Ontario L1R 2K6 Quality Education today - for tomorrow

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