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Writing Workshop Wonderings

October 21, 2015

Writing Workshop Wonderings

Today was my first writing workshop of the year with the eleven students in my 7th grade reading class.  Last week, the students wrote biographical essays in 3 distinct and separate steps:

  • Creating graphic organizers
  • Writing a rough draft in their notebook on the opposite page of their graphic organizer
  • Revising rough draft and typing a second draft onto a google doc

After they submitted their work electronically, I made comments using Doc’s comment feature to provide students feedback.  I tried to make fewer than ten comments per assignment and focused on one element/skill a student did well and two they needed to work on (run-on sentences, commas, providing sufficient details, and using the rubric to help guide their writing were some of the big winners).

In class today, while students were working on their Back to the Future assignment (see below), I met with students independently for five minutes.  Here were my goals:

  • Show students how comment function works in Google Docs
  • Read over comments dealing with best part of their writing
  • Reading over comments concerning one element/skill they need to work on most
  • Give students enough info that when they revise their writing next week, they will have the knowledge to make the changes correctly in order to improve their writing

To help myself, I:

  • Used a small white board to give examples
  • I did most of the typing
  • I had them make at least one change to show me they knew how to make future changes.

Reflections on what I can do better

  • I did too much of the work with the goal of making the most of time
  • The process seemed rushed
  • I could have had them read over my comments prior to coming up to meet with me
  • Let them do more of the typing/editing

Questions –

  • How do I make the most out of the five minutes?  I chose five because that allows me to meet with all my students over the course of two class periods.
  • How do I better record what we talked about in our discussions, as I found the white board to be useful but they didn’t have any examples to take home with them. (Perhaps they could take a photo using their iPads)
  • How can I make it more student-centered?  I felt I did most of the work, yet I believe that had they could have been more active participants – doing so would have helped them to solidify their understanding

I’d love to get your thoughts/ideas/suggestions.

Many thanks!

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4 Comments
  1. Sarah Qua permalink

    What about using peer review or having students read it to multiple others to get feedback on how to improve their writing before they ever meet with you?

  2. KLA permalink

    There’s actually a lot that can stand in the way of getting ideas flowing when a student has to type. Scribing for them can help the focus more on ideas and less on mechanics, so I don’t think you typing is necessarily a bad thing!
    Wondering if you’re feeling like you attempted too much because you went whole draft rather than paragraph by paragraph? Still seems thorough and focused on good skills and content.

  3. Martha Fortier permalink

    Hi – It’s Martha Fortier.

    Thanks for the invite to see what you’re up to!

    Love the careful sequencing of your lesson–but wondering if they brainstormed? Talked over ideas?

    I am a big advocate of three drafts as I think we all go to editing (grammar, etc) too fast without revising content first. Consider reacting simply to content and organization first with comments such as “I notice you…” and “I’m curious to hear more about…” (Or, as you noted, “add specific details here–I can’t picture what’s going on!”) These kinds of lead sentences can also be fruitful for peer readers–that way a writer hears back from a broader audience. And if 3/4 readers are all confused in the same area, then the writer has a clear sense that s/he needs to make some revisions.

    I think your inclination to limit your comments makes a lot of sense. In terms of your writing conferences, you also seem dead on when you mention having the students process your feedback prior to your meeting. Maybe you could start with the student summarizing your feedback (or even writing out a summary before the conference) and then coming prepared with 1-2 questions. Lately, I’ve been insisting that my juniors arrive with questions so they lead the conference…and I’ve been trying to keep my hands folded so they do the writing. Of course for 7th graders, this point may need to be adapted, but I still like that they come prepared. You’ve done your job in giving feedback already, right? They meet with you to ask for clarification. Or, as you did, you can ask them to complete a “fix” to ensure that they truly understand your feedback.

    Yep–a marathon comment here, but I’ve got one other thought. I’ve had my students comment in response to a question on our class portal–and this year blogging, which is so, so cool, btw–and am amazed by the fluidity of their writing in an informal situation. You don’t mention any frustration with their writing, but if you feel they sort of “seize up” when it comes to drafting, consider having them write informally about their topic pre or post outline/organizer to get at their authentic voice and even some details that otherwise might not show up.

    OK, one more: I love asking them to star their favorite sentence and explain why: a little meta exercise to get to know what they are thinking!

    Rock on. Sorry about the length: you are right in my wheel house.

    • Martha – Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. You need to stop apologizing – I emailed you because you are one of the best English teachers on the planet and I wanted to get your thoughts. Had I wanted a short comment – I would have asked one of my 7th graders. 🙂

      That said – it’s Sunday night and I am fried. Let me read over your tome (just kidding) tomorrow over a good cup of coffee and I promise to get back to you early this week.

      Many thanks!

      DQ

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