Week 10 – Those Training Wheels Gotta Go


What a day.  This week is going to be not a little nuts.  I don’t know what writing will look like, but while I’m waiting for my darling, wonderful husband to finish cooking dinner (yes, he’s the one who cooks in our family), I thought I’d scratch out a few lines about what happened in class today.  If my cat, Pippin, will let me. (He was left at home alone all weekend, and he’s trying to make up for it.)

So our first Humanities papers were due today.  Most of the students had the paper totally done.  A few had some final adjustments to make, and one or two needed to spend some serious time to finish it.  For the first real assignment of the year, that’s not bad.  Of course, I would love to see them all get it in on time, but it is a process, and they will get better as the year progresses.  This year, I decided to give them each an orange folder for keeping the paper in as it progresses, and a blue folder for the tools they need to write the paper.  It absolutely paid off today.  I was very pleased with how quickly they were able to find the pieces of their essay.

This is because the final paper is not really a final paper.  What they turn in to me is the whole writing process.  They give me the original rubric, their brainstorming, their outline, their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd drafts with all the revision and editing marks, their personal skill record (which is a list of the grammar rules they broke), and the final draft.  It usually takes the whole period just for them to find all the pieces, but this time, it went pretty quickly, allowing us to get to the next rubric.

For the new students, the rubric was exactly the same as the last one.  They are doing the exact same process, but with the book they read for October.  They were getting down to work before I had the rubrics passed out.

For the returning students, the rubric is very different, the prompt being a report and a review instead of just a report of their novel.  One of my biggest goals for students is for them to have such a command of the writing process that they can use it to write any paper any teacher throws at them.  To do this, students have to write and write and write.  But they also need to know that all teachers and professors expect students to use the writing process even though they don’t give students any credit for it.  All the credit for the brainstorming, the outlining, the drafting, and the revising goes into a final grade.  So, for my returning students, in order to prepare them for this (and with the dear hope that it will stick), I am taking away the points I usually give for brainstorming and drafting.  They will get credit for the outline and communal work that they do in order to revise, none of which they can do if they haven’t done the parts they aren’t getting points for.

When they saw this on the rubric, their faces fell and they got very, very serious.  I assured them that they aren’t losing out by not getting the points they used to get.  I compared it to training wheels.  By this time, they have had authentic personal experience with how much better their papers are when they do the process than when they don’t.  I’m also giving them more independence in what they can say in response to the prompt.

One student asked, “So before it was like a skeleton, and now we are putting the meat on it?”  Eww, but yes.  We spent a long time talking about why the brainstorm/research part is so very important.  We also re-tooled graphic organizers they used in the past to help them brainstorm in order to make it work for them.

I think they are ready to do this.  I’ll hold the bike steady.


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