A school in Norfolk is dramatically improving writing skills. Here’s how:

Langham Primary School has been using the digital writing website nightzookeeper.com, for the past three years, with some amazing results.

“22% of the students made a year’s worth of progress in just one term. One child made incredible progress during that term – 6 points!”

Emma Cotton, Class 3 teacher,  gives her feedback on the impact of using nightzookeeper.com in the classroom.

I had heard about Night Zookeeper at the Norfolk ICT Conference a few years ago and thought it looked like an exciting idea, although wondered how I would fit it into a busy curriculum commitment. During the month of March, my class participated in World Creative Writing Month, and what a competition it turned out to be!

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The children were so inspired to write. They followed the leaderboard avidly and when they saw they were slowly progressing towards the top, it really was incredible. As a teacher, I work hard to create opportunities where the children are self-motivated and I must say I have rarely seen anything like this level of motivation before!”

Not only does the website encourage the children to read, write and develop their creativity, it also has an Assessment Toolkit which makes it very easy to monitor progress and target learning.

It uses core curriculum objectives for writing including spelling, writing composition, vocabulary, grammar and punctuation with space to leave personalised comments for the children. Marking and assessing writing is so much easier.

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After using the Night Zoo for a while now, I find it easy to link it in with other topics in school. We recently followed a science-based project, yet could still use the Night Zoo as a place to re-draft our completed science reports…

The Night Zookeepers themselves work incredibly hard to make the zoo “real” for the children. I really cannot recommend it enough!

If you take the whole of Year 4, 5 and 6 into account then 22% of the students made a year’s worth of progress in just one term. One child made incredible progress during that term – 6 points!

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Overall, 50% of the students made well above expected levels of progress in writing as a result of their involvement and enthusiasm for Night Zookeeper.

When we covered areas to improve writing in class, these children practised what had been taught that day at home, they were arriving at school having consolidated the previous day’s learning. As a teacher, I was able to give feedback on next steps the same evening, the children followed this up and arrived in class the next day confident with their changes and ready for further prompts.

The children were of mixed ability, some who made this amount of progress were confident writers, who found an outlet for their creativity and enjoyed having a positive way to reinforce their skills. 

Other students were less confident writers, who also benefitted from the instant feedback and ability to rehearse within a positive environment.

The known audience for writing helped to give focus, plus importantly the various elements of competition involved in motivating the children to write, and write well!”

What the students say:

It has been a great experience for me and has really helped boost my writing.

Charlotte, Year 6

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To find out how your whole school can be inspired to improve their writing skills, please get in touch at [email protected], or try it for yourself at www.nightzookeeper.com

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