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Technology Infusion in Writers Workshop

Brittney Lara

North Carolina State University


The purpose of this study is to explore what happens when a digital component is added
to the Writers Workshop to promote student understanding and production of written products.
The digital component that was implemented throughout the study consisted of video lessons
that helped students review the elements of persuasive writing. To encourage students to self-
regulate their learning, students were able to self-select a video that fit their need during/after the
Writers Workshop process. Second grade students participated in a series of surveys and brief
interviews conducted throughout the study. Data collection consisted of observational notes as
students self-selected a video; student surveys were taken at the end of each video, and student
interviews at the conclusion of the study. Preliminary results indicated that students preferred to
watch the videos rather than having the teacher re-teach the skill. However, students did not
always choose a video that would supplement their needs; in those instances instruction was not
always transferred from the video to the written products. At the conclusion of the study writing
scores were compared from the pre- and post- instruction with the component of video
implementation and students showed growth in the production of the written product. Teachers
must take into consideration the needs of our 21st century learners and how we can adapt
teaching to ensure that students are met at their level of need during and after writing instruction.

Keywords: Writers Workshop, Differentiation, Elementary Education, Technology

Technology Infusion in Writers Workshop

Today, students are expected to be literate in both reading and writing with exposures to

challenging texts and writing tasks that aid students in acquiring habits that are essential for their

success in the future. Reading, as well as writing, is where a significant portion of time is allotted

inside the classroom, especially in the primary grades. Both areas require teachers to employ

authentic tasks where the student feels there is a purpose for learning. Individually, both reading

and writing require a teachers investment of time on modeling, facilitating and differentiating

based on student needs. Writing instruction is delivered in a workshop model, often referred to as

Writers Workshop, and is defined by Jasmine and Weiner (2007) as, an interactive approach to

teaching writing in which students learn and practice the importance of rehearsal,

drafting/revising, and editing their own work (p. 1). In my classroom, my second grade students

are exposed to Writers Workshop three times a week. The Workshop is divided into different

segments to help students achieve desired outcomes. These segments include mini-lessons,

conferencing, and sharing. Students are expected to work on writing individually and I, as the

classroom teacher, have conferences with students about their pieces.

Study Site/ Participants

This study was conducted at Lincoln Elementary in a combination class of both second

and third grade students. The total number of students in the class is 23, and there are 15 third

graders and 8 second graders. The research focuses on the eight-second grade students who

make up 35% of my classroom. I started teaching at Lincoln Elementary this year as a beginning


Description of the Problem

The problem that arises in my room, when instructing my second grade students, is that it

is challenging to meet the diverse needs of their writing abilities. Differentiating instruction is a

huge task and in todays classroom the need of each student can be vastly dissimilar. Students

come with diverse understandings of topics or have already acquired skills to help them be

successful in writing endeavors. In Writers Workshop the teacher delivers a mini-lesson daily

around one sub-topic or component of the writing unit. The teacher, like myself, directly

instructs students on the skill and models how to use this skill in their writing pieces. What I

have noticed is because of the range of needs in my classroom, this modeling is only beneficial

to some students, and others are either disengaged or gain little understanding. Once the mini-

lesson concludes students are then expected to work on their writing pieces. I as the teacher have

conferences with students, students have conferences with one another, and together we develop

the skills essential for the writing unit.

A reoccurring problem with this method, however is that some students in my class need

foundational skills, while others need enrichment, and some even need a review of the specific

skills that were modeled. I feel that this is problematic because when students go to write their

pieces they get stuck either waiting for the teacher to direct their learning and or they have

trouble completing a piece with mastery. Students are then unable to move along the writing

continuum and the pieces they are working on dont demonstrate the students truest potential

due to different needs a student may have. When I as the teacher go to work with students, I

typically get stuck working on the re-teaching part and lose out on the time to work with the

various types of skills other students may need to work on during the writing process. The whole

idea of the workshop model is that students can work at their own speed but students still need

the option to go back to instruction when needed to help improve writing pieces.
Evidence Explaining the Problem

As I started my research process, I uncovered some essential explanations about Writers

Workshop along with student needs. I found that Writers Workshop enables teachers to address

the varying instructional needs of students as they teach each component of the writing process.

This is what triggered my thinking about the needs I have to address daily in my classroom and

how I meet those needs for students in their writing process. Today, teachers around the world

are expected to differentiate instruction to support student diversity and learning needs. Dixon,

Yssel, McConnell, and Hardin (2014) noted that because of such extreme differences in student

learning needs, teachers have a difficult time designing and implementing focused learning

activities specifically tailored to each childs needs. Essentially, this simply means that one size

does not fit all and it is difficult to create an individual learning path for each child. Everyday

teachers are faced with this dilemma. They work with children that range in skills and abilities

from academically gifted level to those who struggle daily to meet grade level standards. With an

understanding of this challenge, Dixon (2014) emphasizes that it is difficult and complex for

teachers to adjust instruction and modify curriculum to adequately meet the varied needs of each

student in their classrooms. With my problem of ensuring my students are successful in

mastering writing curriculum, I started to think about what solutions could I provide to ensure all

needs were being met and students were receiving the help they needed at any point in the

Writers Workshop. This led me on a quest to seek answers to my problems while keeping my

21st century learners in mind.

Research Questions
How can technology be used to differentiate instruction throughout a persuasive writing

unit for Second Grade students?

Does the incorporation of technology enhance student motivation and understanding by

meeting students direct needs?


Week/Day Project Objective Expected Person Video

Activity Completion Responsible Y/N
1 To assess student feelings
Elementary in regards to writing
March 2, Writing process. Allows teacher to March 2- 3, Students N
2016 Attitude change writing delivery 2016
Survey based on student
1 To find a baseline for what
Pre-Writing students already knew March 4-7, Students
March 4, Assessment about persuasive writing 2016 N
2016 and letter skills.
2 To determine if students
Classroom would find using March 8, 2016 Students N
March 8, Survey technology such as a video
2016 would be a motivator and
Pre-Study if students felt it would
help them learn
2 Analyze Pre- In effort to determine the
Writing delivery of writing N
March 11-13 Assessment instruction and to March 11-13, Teacher
/Attitude determine if videos would 2016
Survey/ be beneficial to students.
Classroom To also take note in how
Survey students felt about writing
instruction from beginning
of the year until study.
3 Writers To introduce new unit in
March 15, Workshop/ Writers Workshop, and March 15, 2016 Teacher, N
2016 Introduction of expose students to the Students
video choice implementation of the
videos and student choice.
The goal is for students to
understand how to choose
a video based on their
instructional needs
3 Writers Continue to teach Writers
Workshop, Workshop mini lessons March 16-17, Teacher, Y
March 16- Choice of and afterwards students 2016 Students
17, 2016 Video, Student are to have the opportunity
observation to pick from a series of
videos in which they feel
is appropriate as they
work on writing pieces.
4 Writers Continue to teach Writers Y
March 21- Workshop, Workshop mini lessons March 21-24, Teacher,
24, 2016 Choice of and afterwards students 2016 Students
Video, Student are to have the opportunity
Observation to pick from a series of
videos in which they feel
is appropriate as they
work on writing pieces.
5 Writers Continue to teach Writers Y
April 4-6, Workshop, Workshop mini lessons April 4-6, 2016 Teacher,
2016 Choice of and afterwards students Students
Video, Student are to have the opportunity
Observation to pick from a series of
videos in which they feel
is appropriate as they
work on writing pieces.
5 Post- Writing To determine if students N
April 7-8, Assessment showed improvement at April 7-8, 2016 Students
2016 the conclusion of the study
based on writing scores.
6 Classroom To have students re-assess N
April 11, Survey their feelings post study. April 11, 2016 Students
2016 Seeking to see if changes
Post Study occurred in thoughts about
Writing due to technology
6 Student To gain insight on how N
April 12, Interviews students felt at the April 12, 2016 Teacher
2016 conclusion of the study. To
see if students felt that
technology was a
motivator and if they felt
that it aided their learning
6 Analyze data To determine an action N
from post- plan for further research April 13-18, Teacher
April 13-18, writing and others 2016
2016 assessment/ implementations that
Classroom would be effective
survey/ student

Preliminary Findings
Initially, as I was starting my research I imagined that my findings would be all positive

and that my students would be so captivated and absorbed in this whole idea that technology

could support their learning. I also assumed that students would feel the videos would be

resourceful and beneficial to their needs during and after writing instruction. My presumptions

about how students felt were partially correct and other findings just led me down a road of

asking more what if questions. As I dug deeper into my findings through surveys, interviews, and
observations I began to notice patterns of what did work within my research project. Several

themes were uncovered through my research consisting of purpose, technology integration,

student choice, and attitudes toward writing.

The first theme that was derived by both survey data and student interviews was that the

videos served an effective purpose for students growth in knowledge on writing skills. I think

this theme was essential to my preliminary findings and the critical need to continue this research

in the classroom. When examining my video surveys, I noticed that when I asked the question to

students Could you use this video in your writing? students responded with a yes or a lot more

frequently than no or somewhat. The data shows that out of the overall 48 surveys given, ranging

from the first week to the third week, 59% felt that they could use it in writing. It also shows in

the classroom survey that was taken, as a pre- and post- survey, that students felt the videos

would be helpful to them as a resource. While I assumed these numbers from the survey would

be much greater, I also considered that it was with a small group of students and I might have

different results with a larger group. Lastly, I felt that during my student interviews most of my

students were able to really tell me specifics about the videos and what it helped them do

afterwards. For example, student 3 stated, It teached me about writing a letter and parts of a

letter and I remembered that when I write my letter for classroom pet. In addition, student 7

stated, It gave me important details, I used the details in writing. One video helped me figure

out how to make my own opinion about class pets.

My second discovery through this research process was that technology integration in the

writing unit was beneficial. At first, I thought it would be the solution to all problems on the

matter of differentiation but once students began to watch the videos, I realized that I still needed

to go higher for some students and I still needed to go for others. Also I realized that some
students just preferred face-to-face help with the teacher. For example, student 8 shared that I

can learn better with my teacher. I choosed the teacher over those videos because the teacher

does fun stuff and the video is just once and it didnt teach us that much stuff about letters like

the teacher did.

The biggest component about technology integration was that students were able to use

familiar technology tools they interact with outside the classroom for fun but for this study they

used them for learning purposes. I think it showed me that technology is essential for our 21st

century learners and that we have to take into consideration how it can be used to support

curriculum content. By integrating technology, it enabled me to address the varied learning

needs of students more effectively. I felt that it enhanced writing instruction and helped students

to better understand the writing process. My data from my poll at the end of the study showed

that about half of the students would rather watch the video than get the supplemental help from

the teacher. I felt like this was promising and shows that more students in todays classroom

enjoy learning through technology. Student 5 said, I like those videos because some of them

were funny, that one about a classroom pet, it had a few pictures, one picture was a jaguar, what

made that funny is because why would someone have a jaguar as a pet, because if someone tried

to feed it would hurt them, so it would not be safe at school. Student 3 said he felt like, I would

want the video to teach me more and maybe if it was longer I could learn more from it.

After talking more with my students during the interviews, something they all said was

that they really liked the fact that they had a choice of what video to watch. I thought that was

interesting because my whole idea behind this research was differentiation to meet student needs

with an infusion of technology and I felt student choice would be appropriate to meet their needs

at that direct time. My data shows that between the categories of somewhat, yes, and a lot, on if
the video was helpful to them, 80% of the time it was. I think that this was due to the fact that

they had control over what they were doing and could invest the time to focus on the review of

the material. Often times, I felt that my students maturity level needed to be developed more for

this to be effective. Other times, I had to guide students with suggestions or explanations of

videos to help them make the right choice. A way to help students with this process of how to

reflect on learning needs, it would be essential for the teacher to incorporate self-regulated

strategies in writing. Students would learn to work through the process of learning writing, and

integrating technology without direct guidance, so the teacher is able to confer and meet the

differentiated needs of the students in the writing group. Student 1 stated that she liked to

choose because it was fun and not boring and when I didnt want to watch it because I knew the

stuff it had then I could pick another video. Personally, as I observed it felt less restrictive for

the student to not have to be forced to watch something that wasnt relative to their needs. When

talking to student 2 she said during the interview, sometimes you could even choose a video you

didnt know anything about and learn before the teacher told you.

Lastly, a recurring theme that stuck out was my students attitudes about writing. I had

students complete the Garfield Elementary writing attitude survey (Kear, Coffman, McKenna,

Ambrosio 2000), prior to beginning this study and that showed me that students were okay and

slightly upset when it came to writing. There was no student who was overjoyed and elated to

write stories or learn about writing. I used this information as an acknowledgement for myself

that my approach to presenting writing to my students needed to be changed up a bit. I thought

about what I could do to get students excited about writing and interested in the topic. I also

considered how to motivate my students. I was hoping that the videos would assist with that and

I also made sure that I left plenty of time for my writers to share their work at the end of the
session whereas before we were always running short on time, or I was in the midst of re-

teaching skills that sharing would often be forgotten. What I found is that based off my

classroom survey when students were asked if they liked writing, the scores increased in overall

happiness for the group, but when asked in interviews, student responses were dissimilar to this

survey. The majority of responses I received in the interviews were that students didnt really like

it and felt it took up a heaping amount of their time. I feel like due to the fact it was the middle of

the year, it could be hard to change students attitudes towards writing in just a three-week time

span. I think if more time was allotted you could use that to extend alternative ways of teaching

and learning about writing to bring up the overall satisfaction of the students.

My desire for the future is to find out what would happen if this type of digital integration

occurred for an entire year and with a larger class. I also think that another possible plan would

be to see what would happen if technology was integrated into another core subject area in which

kids had more positive feelings, would that change the way students felt. I feel like with the

amount of time I had to conduct the research, I was able to pull some very valuable pieces of

information out from my students that I was naive to before. I think the research I conducted

both on this topic and within my own classroom shows that more research needs to be conducted

to find effective methods for teaching writing. It also showed me that as we begin to integrate

more technology into our classrooms there is the possibility for tremendous positive reactions

from students and their desire to learn. I think that teachers have already started to tap into

students technological skills and use those skills to aid them in areas like writing and reading.


As I reflect on this study, the most important learning experience for me was the

realization that even with an implementation of technology, some students will still require
additional support in meeting their needs. This support can be time consuming for myself as the

classroom teacher as well as students who are awaiting my assistance. I came to the conclusion

that re-teaching will still have to occur on a one-on-one basis even with the supplemental videos.

I also learned that students have to be able to understand what their needs are as writers and be

explicitly told, in order to choose a video that effectively meets their needs. I found that students

enjoyed being able to watch videos about writing but students were not always engaged with the

process. I also discovered that some students didnt want to watch any videos and would have

preferred to just work with me. After the surveys were distributed and collected in regards to

their feelings about writing, I learned that I needed to find alternate ways to my approach of

delivering writing instruction. I would also say that as a teacher researcher it is highly essential

to have a timeline set in place before you begin the project so you can anticipate when and how

often something needs to occur. Often times, I would forget about pieces that were critical to my

data collection and I think that with a timeline, I could have helped myself stay on track.

My findings showed me as a researcher that the outcome will not always be the way you

expect it to be. I assumed in the beginning that implementing videos would be the solution to all

my problems. What I found is that it varied based on the student and scaffolding was still

required even with the implementation of the video. I also noted that it is highly important to

teach students self-regulating skills when completing an independent activity like choice in a

video and watching it to gain new knowledge. Several times we had to stop and talk about

appropriate computer behavior and if the video was a good fit for them if they were not paying

attention. Overall, I feel like moving forward into next year with a new group of kids, I would

want to teach students appropriate behaviors and also how can you tell what help you need as a

writer. I would want to start the videos earlier to see what that data would show over the course
of an entire year and I would want to do interviews throughout the entire year to help compare

the results. I think another appropriate step would be to make more challenging videos for those

kids who need that, so they can take it to the next level of learning. My data showed me from this

short trial that students already knew much of the information and so that tells me that they

needed something more to extend their learning rather than to repeat it.

Dixon, F. A., Yssel, N., Mcconnell, J. M., & Hardin, T. (2014). Differentiated instruction,

professional development, and teacher efficacy. Journal for the Education of the Gifted,

37(2), 111-127.

Jasmine, J., & Weiner, W. (2007). The effects of writing workshop on abilities of first grade

students to become confident and independent writers. Early Childhood Education,

35(2), 131-139.



Code/Theme Description Quote/Example
Effectiveness Students during the interview The last question on the data
and as the results on figure chart asked students if they
4.1, found that the video could could use the video in writing.
be used in writing 59% of students felt that they
could implement the video
into writing pieces.
Student 7, It gave me
important details, I used the
details in writing. One video
help me figure out how to
make my own opinion about
class pets.
Student 3, It teached me
about writing a letter and parts
of a letter and I remembered
that when I write my letter for
classroom pet.
Student 5, Mostly because all
the things about classroom pet
talked research and the video
helped you figure out what
you needed to do and how to
Technology Integration Throughout the study students The data showed that about
mentioned how much they 50% of the participants would
liked using technology in the have rather used a video than
classroom. Overall, learn from teacher. The data
technology was an added also showed a growth in
benefit to learning and their students opinions on the
desire to write. classroom survey in regards to
if technology motivates you to
Student 1, I like using
technology because its fun,
and when you use it you get to
watch videos and play games
that help you learn. Now we
get to even write stories using
Student 2, I like technology
because its fun watching the
videos and helping me learn
new stuff and teaching me
facts I havent learned
Teacher Observation, It
seems like students are
working harder during
Writers Workshop because
they want the opportunity to
get on the computer and watch
a video. They also know that
at the end of the unit we will
publish using a tool online and
they like to share their stories
with their parents and friends
via online.
Student Choice Students were given the The data showed in figure 4.1
opportunity to choose a video that students thought the video
based on needs in writing. I they chose was (somewhat,
took observational notes on yes, and a lot) helpful to them
which videos students choose at an 80% of overall
and after interviewing satisfaction.
students, many stated the best Student 3, I liked choosing
part was being able to choose my video because if we chose
the video. one we didnt like or need
then we can change it and that
makes it fun and not boring
for learning.
Student 5. Sometimes if we
just have to pick form one
video and that is the only one
it can be boring. When we get
to choose our own, we can see
the cover, read about it, and
see which one seems better
before I watch it.
Teacher Observation,
Students would ask questions
about each video and read the
title along with the video to
see if it would be a good fit.
Then it was evident that the
students whom had chosen
purposefully were intent on
listening and paying attention
because it mattered to them.
Attitudes toward writing Students still had insecurities The data from Figure 1 shows
about writing and negative that students were somewhat
attitude in regards to writing happy but not satisfied or
generally liked writing. The
highest score you could have
as a raw score was 120 and
only 1 of 8 students scored at
a 100. The remaining 7 were
90 and below which means
they thought of writing in a
negative regard.
Student 5, It takes forever to
write, when we have t write
and not have a video, it is hard
to figure stuff out and makes
me not like writing because
then I cant figure it out.
Student 6, I like creating
stories but I do not like
writing them down, it takes up
too much of my time and then
I dont know if it is right and
then sometimes I dont like
the stuff we write about so it
makes me mad when I gotta
write that stuff.
Figure 1
Elementary Writing Attitude Survey Responses

Elementary Writing Attitude Survey

Full Scale Raw Score

Percentile Ranking

(Kear, Coffman, McKenna, Ambrosio, 2000, pp. 11-17)

Note: This chart depicts a range of raw scores and percentile scores as based on students attitudes
in regards to writing. The results show that the average score of my 8 students was a 58%, which
means that students had a somewhat to slightly happy attitude about writing in general.

Figure 2
Student Writing Assessment Scores

Pre Score Overall

Post Score Overall

Note: These scores represent an overall writing score based off a Writing Rubric used to evaluate student-writing pieces as
determined by the school district. Most students showed growth from pre- to post- assessment, but at this time it cannot be
determined if that was due to technology engagement.
Figure 3
Classroom Survey Pre- Post- Study
Question Happy Okay Sad

Pre - Post - Pre- Post - Pre- Post -

How do you feel when Ms. 6 7 1 1 1 0
Lara teaches writing?
How do you feel when Ms. 4 6 3 2 1 0
Lara uses videos to help you
Does using technology in 3 5 5 2 0 1
class motivate you learn?
How do you feel when you 3 4 3 2 2 1
have to write a story or a
Do you like learning about 2 4 3 2 3 2
Do you enjoy writing in your 3 3 4 3 1 2
free time?
Do you think that videos 4 6 4 2 0 0
about writing would be
helpful for you, after we learn
about writing?
Note: Students did this survey anonymously and this survey was taken to gauge how they felt about classroom instruction and
how it is delivered. There was growth from pre- to post- scores in the category of being happy, and a decrease in scores in the
category of being okay, and a decrease in scores of being sad about writing.

Figure 4.1
Video Survey Results
1 No 2 Somewhat 3 Yes 4 A lot
Did you think the
video you chose 20% 38% 27% 15%
was helpful?
Was this a review
of information? 29% 15% 23% 33%
Did the video
teach you 31% 21% 23% 25%
something new?
Can you use this
video in writing? 8% 33% 17% 42%
Note: Surveys were administered twice a week; we watched videos over a course of 3 weeks. Data represented in table is the
overall collection of responses from students to each question. There were a total of 48 responses to each question. The
percentage was derived from the total number of responses per category/total response to question.

Figure 4.2
Student poll at the conclusion of the study
Video Teacher
Would you have rather
watched these videos to help 4 students determined video 4 students felt that teacher
you with writing or reviewed met their needs would have been a better
the information with the choice than a video