Action Research Analysis Paper I

Kloefkorn Elementary is one of thirty-nine elementary schools in the Lincoln Public School district, the second largest district in Nebraska.  Kloefkorn opened in August 2012 to serve the needs of a rapidly expanding population in the southeast section of Lincoln, Nebraska and was named in honor of William Kloefkorn, the 1982 Nebraska Poet (2017-2018: Kloefkorn Elementary, SCHOOL ID: 55-0001-079, 2018). Kloefkorn is located in a suburban neighborhood. The median household income in the area is $51,126; the median rent is $750; the median home value is $150,200. (Kloefkorn Elementary, 2018) According to the school’s website, their vision is to create a “safe, engaging, welcoming learning environment where excellence in teaching and learning thrives. Its mission is to “honor the past, achieve excellence in the present, and inspire leaders for the future” (2017-2018: Kloefkorn Elementary, SCHOOL ID: 55-0001-079, 2018).

At the beginning of the 2018 school year, 497 students attended Kloefkorn. See Table I for student distribution by grade. 47% of the students are female, 53% are male. With respect to demographics, the majority of the students at this elementary school, 85%, identify as white. See Table 2 for complete student distribution by ethnicity. No ELL students are served at this school. 3.9% of the students receive free lunch, 2.3% receive reduced lunch. 10.5% of the students have been identified as gifted, 1.9% have been identified as highly gifted. See Table 3 for additional demographic information (2017-2018: Kloefkorn Elementary, SCHOOL ID: 55-0001-079, 2018). This school was rated .049 on the LPS mobility index with 97.3% of the students identified as non-mobile. See Table 4 for mobility information. (Annual Statistical Handbook: Student Section, 2017)

For the 2018-2019 school year, Kloefkorn employs 30 full-time teachers. This provides a 16.3/1 student to teacher ratio. 53% of those teachers possess masters degrees. The teachers are primarily white at this school as well.  3% identify as Asian, 3% identify as two or more races, and 93% identify as white (Table 5) (2017-2018: Kloefkorn Elementary, SCHOOL ID: 55-0001-079, 2018).

Kloefkorn students perform far above the state average in all areas. 96% are proficient in reading, 91% are proficient in math, 91% are proficient in science, and 76% are proficient in writing. information (2017-2018: Kloefkorn Elementary, SCHOOL ID: 55-0001-079, 2018). According to the Nebraska Department of Education, proficient is defined as having “competency over challenging subject matter knowledge, application of such knowledge to real-world situations, and appropriate analytical skills” (State of the Schools Report Card, 2014).

The two students at the center of this study are 8-year old males attending 3rd grade at Kloefkorn in different home room classes. Eric’s family comes from mainland China. His extended family still resides in China. He lives with his mother, a natural resources professor at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, his father, employed by Assurity Life Insurance, his twin brother, Brian, and a goldfish. His family speaks Chinese and English at home, though Eric is not fluent. He was identified as highly gifted this year and elected to work with a language arts mentor on writing. Eric’s parents report that he loves to write but his stories are “long and rambling.” His mother feels capable of mentoring him in math and science but does not consider herself to be a good writer in either Chinese or English. His parents also report that Eric is highly competitive and driven. Eric plays baseball, hockey, and has recently learned to play golf. He reports his favorite literary genre is fantasy although he does not particularly enjoy Harry Potter. Eric is a Cub Scout and states math and reading are his favorite subjects. He is not particularly interested in any video games and does not watch any television show regularly, although he will occasionally tune into a show about fishing. He is currently reading the Last Kids on Earth series at home and Redwall at school with his mentor. He has no stated goals for the mentorship.

The second student is Aaron. Aaron’s family also comes from mainland China. His extended family resides in China as well.  Aaron lives with his mother, a math and science mentor in the Lincoln Public Schools, his father, a professor at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and his younger sister, Claire. His family speak Chinese and English at home though Aaron is not fluent. He was identified as highly gifted this year and elected to work with a language arts mentor on reading. His mother reports that Aaron is interested in history and loves to read. Aaron collects coins, plays the piano, and spends his free time playing Minecraft or watching YouTube videos of other people playing Minecraft. His favorite literary genre is biographies. He is reading the Geronimo Stilton series at home and The Indian in the Cupboard at school with his mentor. His goals for the mentorship are to increase his vocabulary, to read longer books, and to work on creating a graphic novel.

The mentor sessions take place in the picture book corner of the school library at a round table near a window. There is a large, flat screen television on the East wall. On the floor next to the table is a multi-colored, circular rug with the alphabet and numbers arranged around the circle. The space is well lit and colorful. Classes come and go during each session, creating varying levels of noise. The librarian frequently leads classes in discussions about how to use the library as well as how to effectively research. A special needs student uses the same space and vocalizes loudly while the para reads. Overall the space is adequate for learning though not without distraction. The students demonstrate a high level of focus and do not appear to be overly distracted by external influences. See figures 1 and 2 for details.

The first few weeks were spent assessing skill level and interest for each student. The sessions began with the students identifying three good things that had taken place during the last day. Next the students were asked to write three sentences to expand the concept of the independent clause using the conjunctions because, but, and so, an exercise from Judith Hochman’s Teaching Basic Writing Skills. The students then corrected the mistakes in the “Daily Edit,” a paragraph detailing a historical event, person, or encounter, filled with errors in punctuation, spelling, and grammar. Next, the students were given a writing prompt. Writing prompts were provided as a described scenario, an interesting image, or a combination of the two. A described scenario example would be to think of an event from the past and write it from the perspective of another person, a pet, or an inanimate object. A picture prompt would be a photo or drawing of something funny or interesting such as seen in figure 3. A combination approach would look like figure 4.  Later prompts included a connection to a book read by the students such as write a list of “Things to Avoid” as in Attack of the Fluffy Bunnies or draw a storyboard detailing the sequence of events from a specific book. Writing exercises also included writing a persuasive paragraph arguing for a specific point of view and summarizing a short article from on online news source for children. The last part of the session was devoted to reading aloud the book selected by the student.

Eric’s area of strength appears to be reading. When asked to choose his next book, he selected Redwall, a fairly lengthy work for his grade level. As he has progressed through the book, he has clearly comprehended the storyline though some of the vocabulary is beyond him. He can discuss the traits of the individual characters, pose questions about the animals in the book, and make predictions about what will eventually happen. For example, Eric stated that Asmodeus, the snake, was not affiliated with either side of the conflict, wondered how large a snake’s prey could be, and predicted Asmodeus, the snake, will eat Cluny the Scourge. 

The area in which Eric appears most challenged is writing. He struggles daily to think of three good things that have taken place in the last day. Suggesting he try to notice positive events throughout the next day about has met with no success. During the time allocated for that exercise, he frequently stares out the window until it is time to move to the next activity. He also routinely struggles to construct “because,” “but,” or “so” sentences. He rarely uses any ideas suggested to him and prefers to fail to write a sentence if he cannot write something unique. His performance on the daily edit exercise as well as his responses to the writing prompts indicates a gap in understanding many basic editing and grammar rules when compared to other highly gifted third-grade students. For example, he rarely identifies subject verb agreement errors or errors in the use of the apostrophe.

Aaron’s area of strength seems to be writing. He completes the three good things exercise easily and is also able to construct “because,” “but,” and “so” sentences without hesitation. He is consistently able to identify most of the errors in the daily edit paragraphs. When presented with a writing challenge, Aaron normally composes a reasonably coherent paragraph. His imagination is particularly engaged when he is presented with a funny or interesting animal picture. The photo featured in figure 3 sparked a multi-page story about a lion demanding the giraffe cut off his neck so the lion could have it. He does find non-fiction writing more challenging and is less creatively inclined when the photo or story starter do not feature animals. Recently Aaron claimed the title of most creative writer.

While Aaron does need improvement in some areas of writing, his greatest challenge seems to be in reading. When asked to choose a book to read during mentor time, Aaron expressed interest in reading a Geronimo Stilton book but, after some negotiation, he agreed to try reading The Indian in the Cupboard. Aaron reads fluently but is intimidated by long books. He does not engage in meaningful discussion about the texts he reads, does not make predictions about what might happen next, and makes no connections to or between the characters.  He stated at the beginning of the mentorship one of his goals was to read longer books but has struggled to stay engaged in books with many pages and few pictures.

Each of the students identified above possess different primary challenges but while one is challenged by writing and one by reading, both demonstrate room for improvement in the area of writing. The third-grade teachers provided the following information about writing instruction in the classroom.  The classes began the year using typing agent and learning how to turn sentences into paragraphs. Then students practiced writing meaningful sentences for vocabulary words. Currently they are working in small groups on a research project about United States landmarks. In addition to special projects, students complete basic writing lesson plans from the district every day. Students will be working on developing Text Dependent Analysis or TDA’s skills. TDA’s involve students responding to a prompt or question with a topic sentence and three supporting details. By the end of third grade they will be expected to respond with an introduction, body, and conclusion. They practice writing TDA’s every Thursday during whole group reading time and are then required to write a TDA on their reading unit assessment, which happens every six weeks. Second quarter will involve learning about research projects. The students research a country and then make a Google Slides presentation. Second semester will be focused on personal essays and personal narratives. (K. Lau, personal communication, September 26, 2018)

There is no one correct method to teaching writing and no proven method of improving writing skills has yet surfaced. There are some universally recognized, basic characteristics of good writers, namely avid reading, the possession of a good vocabulary, and practice and the current series of activities during the mentor time are designed to strengthen all three of those basic characteristics. The initial intervention strategy to address the writing weaknesses in the students as described was to measure the impact of strengthening base level grammar skills on writing proficiency. Further analysis of the perceived issues suggests that such a strategy would not be effective in stimulating creative ideas or assist the students in understanding how to assemble those ideas into a coherent order. A cursory overview of the current theories of how to improve writing skills includes hypnoteaching, teacher belief, directive feedback, digital storytelling, and intertextual reading. Hypnoteaching and teacher belief did not yield enough substance to be considered viable. Directive feedback, digital storytelling, and intertextual reading hold more promise.

Directive feedback involves the teacher reading student writing, identifying errors, and providing specific instruction on how to correct the problems. Directive feedback differs from facilitative feedback, which entails providing comments and suggestions to assist students in make their own edits and revisions, by being explicit about what needs to be fixed and why. According to the study, students want feedback on grammar errors and are frustrated when it is not provided (Sarie, 2013). While this approach seems to have promise and to validate the initial intervention strategy idea, the focus of that intervention was specifically on improving grammar skills while the end goal for these students is to stimulate ideas, enhance creativity, and strengthen organization.

Intertextual reading entails making connections between one text and another. The term was conceived in the 1960’s by a Bulgarian philosopher, Julia Kriseva (Raj, 2015). According to the study, the method proved extremely effective in improving the writing skills of fifth graders. Originality in ideas improved as well as richness of vocabulary (Akdal, 2014). From the research and results cited in the study, this approach seems to offer significant potential. The main drawback for the purposes of designing this intervention is that the study participants are fifth grade students. While the students in this paper are highly gifted, they are still at the third grade level. The main concern in attempting to use an intertextual approach with these students would be the limited amount of texts in their experience.

The final intervention strategy reviewed was digital storytelling. Digital storytelling refers to using computer-based tools to tell stories. Those stories can include digital images, music, animations etc. (Robin, 2018). According to the study, after the class undertook a lengthy and intensive process of studying narrative writing using digital storytelling, the students demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in “ideas, organization, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions in terms of writing quality” (Yamac, 2016). The results of this study are compelling. Storytelling is a tradition with a long history, one that only relatively recently transitioned into writing. Returning to the pre-writing stage to learn how to construct a better writing product is an intriguing possibility.  An additional benefit to using digital storytelling as a means of strengthening writing skills is the opportunity to integrate a variety of technology instruction.

After additional reflection on the potential intervention strategies, the digital storytelling approach seems to be a best, most suitable stratagem. An intertextual approach might be better at a later time when the students have a larger body of consumed texts from which to draw. Directed feedback may also be a beneficial strategy to employ at a later time if grammar errors proved to be persistent. While foundational skills are important to good writing, the students described have the most difficulty in basic, coherent story creation. Using step by step instructions in conjunction with graphic action outlines and text captioning descriptions holds the most promise for helping the students grasp how to organize their thoughts and create a better quality product or piece of writing.


2017-2018: Kloefkorn Elementary, SCHOOL ID: 55-0001-079. (2018). Retrieved from Nebraska Department of Education:

Akdal, D. a. (2014). The Effects of Intertextual Reading Approach on the Development of Creative Writing Skills. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research, 171-186.

Annual Statistical Handbook: Student Section. (2017). Retrieved from Nebraska Department of Education:

Kloefkorn Elementary. (2018). Retrieved from Niche:

Raj, P. P. (2015). Interrogating Julia Kristeva’s Concept of Intertextuality. Research Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 77-80.

Robin, B. (2018). What is Digital Storytelling? Retrieved from Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling:

Sarie, R. F. (2013). Using Directive Feedback to Improve Students’ Writing Skills: A Case Study of English Department Students . Advances in Language and Literary Studies, Vol. 4, No. 2, 74-92.

State of the Schools Report Card. (2014). Retrieved from Nebraska Department of Education:

Yamac, A. a. (2016). The Effect of Digital Storytelling in Improving the Third Graders’ Writing Skills. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, 59-86.


Table 1: Enrollment Distribution by Grade Level

Grade LevelNumber of StudentsPercentage of Enrollment
Pre-Kindergarten16  3%
Kindergarten67  13%
1st Grade76  15%
2nd Grade9218%
3rd Grade7916%
4th Grade7815%
5th Grade8918%

(2017-2018: Kloefkorn Elementary, SCHOOL ID: 55-0001-079, 2018)
Table 2: Enrollment by Ethnicity

EthnicityNumber of StudentsPercentage of Enrollment
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander00%
Hispanic25  5%
2 or More Races12  2%
American Indian/Native Alaskan1  <1%
Asian30  6%
Black or African American6  1%
White423  85%

(2017-2018: Kloefkorn Elementary, SCHOOL ID: 55-0001-079, 2018)

Table 3: Additional Student Demographic Data

CategoryNumber of StudentsPercentage of Enrollment
Gifted Education5119%
Highly Gifted91.9%
Free Lunch19  3.9%
Reduced Lunch112.3%

(Annual Statistical Handbook: Student Section, 2017)

Table 4: Mobility Data 2017-2018

Official CountNumber StudentsTransfer in and remainTransfer out and remain outTotal MobileTotal students servedMobility Index

(Annual Statistical Handbook: Student Section, 2017)

Table 5: Teacher Demographic Data

EthnicityNumber of TeachersPercentage of Total
Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander00%
Hispanic0  0%
2 or More Races1  3%
American Indian/Native Alaskan0    0%
Asian1  3%
Black or African American0  0%
White28  94%

(2017-2018: Kloefkorn Elementary, SCHOOL ID: 55-0001-079, 2018)

Table 6: Test Scores

SubjectPercentage Proficient

(Kloefkorn Elementary, 2018)