Week 8- Power to the Yahoots: Student revision.


What the heck is going on here?  As part of our writing process, I allow students to score each others’ papers on a rubric created by Education Northwest.  This time  we used the Idea and Content rubric from their fabulous 6+1 Writing Traits.  (Note the use of the word “score”. They are not allowed to “edit” or “grade”.  They just don’t have the skill yet.)  After thinking about it, students wrote answers in their Bellwork Journals.

We ended up listing the goals of Peer Scoring first, oddly enough.  It looked like this:
1) To catch all the mistakes.  2) To help a writer have a stronger paper.  3) To learn how to have stronger papers ourselves.   4) To improve clarity. 5) To better understand Idea and Content.  6)  To show a writer what he/she can improve.  7)  To show a writer what they are doing well.  Most of which I thought was pretty on the nose.  I did remind students not to try to catch all the mistakes.  Sometimes this can be demoralizing.  It is sometimes better to pick a few necessary things to change instead.

Then we talked about what was hard about it, and I have to say I heard some things that surprised me. For example it came up far more than I thought it would that students struggle with the the prospect of having to give a friend a weak score on a paper.  This makes sense when you think about it. It led to a great discussion on creating a community of writers.  And as much as they all agreed that you create trust and stronger friendships by being honest, the reality of having to explain to a friend that their paper wasn’t very strong and bearing the weight of labeling those issues is daunting.  Which led us to the problem of feeling confident about the rubric.  Yesterday, I asked students to show me on a scale of 1-5 how confident they felt helping another writer improve their work.  Mostly is was 2s and 3s.  This was after scoring many papers as class.

So, we looked at one more paper.  We seriously took it apart.  We poked, we prodded, we questioned.  And when I asked students how they felt, they thought they were ready to go.

When they came in for the next class, we clarified their instructions thus:

And I let them loose.

It took them all of the period.  When they said they were done with their writer’s paper, I asked them to show me what they had done.  And, I was pretty impressed.  They gave mostly honest, helpful, clear feedback.  Nobody shirked their duty to call a spade a spade- strong or weak.

Once both parties were finished, they were required to “conference” with each other.  I told them that in their role as writer, they must be sure they understand the feedback their reader had given them because making those revisions would be the homework.  I also reminded them that they did not have to use all the suggestions made by their reader, but that they must take any “reader question” very, very seriously.

So, homework for Monday is the 3rd draft.  I’m giving them such a long time because many of the students are still hand writing their papers.  They know that the next draft will be a grammar and mechanics edit done by yours truly.  Many of the students are already making noises about having siblings, parents, and friends edit their work before they hand it in to me.

I’m impressed with how writing an essay has empowered my students.  They are enjoying writing, and I think it is because it is a conversation.  What they have to say is important.


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