Year 8

English Support Materials

English snapshot: School-wide evaluation of writing

English/Literacy/Creating texts

Content Description Relevant aspects of the Achievement Standards

Year 8

Create imaginative, informative and persuasive texts that raise issues, report events and advance opinions, using deliberate language and textual choices, and including digital elements as appropriate (ACELY1736)

Experiment with text structures and language features to refine and clarify ideas to improve the effectiveness of students’ own texts (ACELY1810)

Year 9

Create imaginative, informative and persuasive texts that present a point of view and advance or illustrate arguments, including texts that integrate visual, print and/or audio features (ACELY1746)

Review and edit students’ own and others’ texts to improve clarity and control over content, organisation, paragraphing, sentence structure, vocabulary and audio/visual features (ACELY1747)

Year 8

Students create texts for different purposes, selecting language to influence audience response. They demonstrate understanding of grammar, select vocabulary for effect and use accurate spelling and punctuation.

Year 9

In creating texts, students demonstrate how manipulating language features and images can create innovative texts.

Students create texts that respond to issues, interpreting and integrating ideas from other texts. They edit for effect, selecting vocabulary and grammar that contribute to the precision and persuasiveness of texts and using accurate spelling and punctuation

School context

A small secondary school has a diverse range of students including a small proportion of students for whom English is an additional language. The NAPLAN data showed that a high proportion of Year 9 students were below state average performance in writing and a many students were below the minimum standard. History and Science teachers had met with the English department to discuss their concerns about students’ poor writing skills and how that was impeding their ability to complete tasks and essays to a satisfactory standard. One teacher felt strongly that the students’ lack of writing ability was actually impeding their learning. Their concerns were in keeping with the English teachers’ own observations of the students’ writing. The teachers agreed to collaborate to investigate the issue and propose an appropriate intervention program.

Nature of the evaluation

Series of investigations of students’ writing ability

Purposes of the evaluation

Inform an intervention

Stage in the teaching learning sequence


Evaluation stages

The inter-departmental team set its focus question as ‘What writing skills do our students need if they are to succeed across learning areas and what do our students lack?’

The teachers began their investigation by reviewing the various kinds of writing that was expected of their students and noted that it usually involved informational writing of a page or less. They also noted a significant proportion of their comments on student work focused on errors in spelling and punctuation.

The teachers agreed to select a sample of 15 students from each of Year 8 to Year 10. They selected students who were regular attenders, who participated in class discussion, and who attempted to complete work but who were struggling with written assignments.

The teachers collected a range of written work from each student. They analysed the students' writing and noted that many students’ sentences were short and disjointed, and that there was very little effective sequencing of ideas. Many students made errors with basic parts of speech. The teachers also noted that the students’ vocabulary was limited.

To investigate this further:

  • The teachers devised a short assessment. In the first part of the assessment the students were required to construct sentences using conjunctions. In the second part of the assessment, the students were presented with sets of three or four sentences and they were asked to sequence the sentences in each set. Each set had a slightly different logic in that some required ordering by chronology, others by order of importance of ideas, and several sets required students to order sentences to compare and contrast ideas.
  • The teachers also researched and selected an assessment of vocabulary knowledge.

The assessments were given to several classes at each year level. The results showed that few students used conjunctions effectively and few could sequence sentences in order of importance of ideas or to compare and contrast ideas. As the teachers expected, the students’ performance on the vocabulary assessment was also low.

Using the information

The team shared their findings with their colleagues.

The team devised an intervention program in which the teachers would integrate explicit teaching of grammar and vocabulary, sentence structure and construction of paragraphs in their lessons.

The teachers agreed to trial the program for a semester with their own classes to see if it led to improved student performance. In addition to monitoring student performance during the intervention, the teachers agreed they would have students complete an informative essay at the end of semester to see if they could express their ideas more coherently. Several other staff members offered to also implement the initiative and be a part of the trial.

Overview of research

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