one step forward… and two steps back

Murphy’s Law states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” And it did. Sorta. This past week and  a half has seen my mother in and out of the hospital and ER twice, an early dismissal due to impending Apocalyptic storms, two-hour delays due to potential  snow flurries, and TWO, count them, TWO unannounced administrative observations.  Oh! I almost forgot! But first, a flashback. For the next step in our investigations of argument writing, I had my students take their last piece of argument writing and get with a partner or small group to discuss at least one thing they liked about their own and their partner’s writing, and one way to improve. My class and I had an awesome discussion after they had  had a chance to confer with each other. At first I was only hearing comments such as:

“That’s good. You don’t need to change anything.”

“She always gets it right.”

“I can’t think of anything you could do better.”

I reminded them that it was our goal to improve our writing skills and that all good writers get feedback from their family, friends, editors, and eventually their fans or critics. I told them not to accept “that’s good, or that sounds nice,” but to demand specific feedback from their peers. This time as I walked around, listening to their conversations, I heard comments such as:

“I can’t even read my own writing!”

“Your evidence gave me an idea.”

 

“It’s good to hear other arguments on the same topic. It gives you something to compare your own writing against.”

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My handwritten notes.

At this point, I brought the whole group together and we shared all the ideas so that everyone could hear the ideas from the other groups. I listed them on the board as they shared, covering the whole board with their thoughts. I was amazed by their insights, and realized that I have been underestimating the writing skills of my students. They have a lot of skills, but they have not known what they know until they had the opportunity to talk about their ideas and then write about them.

After our discussion, I asked them if they would help me write a rubric. They acted scared and unsure, so I showed them an example from a reading program we use in sixth grade, but I want them to have ownership in their work so that I have a greater “buy in” from them. We talked about what should go into the rubric based on our Common Core State Standards and our current level of skills. They decided it was too much hard work to write their own rubric, so they voted unanimously to use the ready-made rubric.

Here’s where Murphy’s Law kicked me hard.I sent one of my students to get my ipad and take a picture of the beautiful board with all of their wonderful ideas from their group conference while the rest of her classmates packed up and went to their next class. Thinking that she had already taken the picture, I erased the board, to get ready for my next class! That’s why there’s no pictures in this week’s blog post. wp_20170303_001

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3 thoughts on “one step forward… and two steps back

  1. Michelle Todd says:

    I love how you told the kids about how real writers like to get feedback that is helpful and for your students not to except superficial comments. I think this is a good lesson for everyone. It is hard to give constructive feedback and sometimes it’s hard to receive it. We are learning about partner feedback in first grade. Some of the same struggles are found with young learners also. I too struggled this week with all the interruptions to the school day. I did not get nearly the writing instruction in this week that I had planned. All we can do is keep pressing forward. 🙂

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  2. Hannah Brady says:

    It was a crazy week and seems like it was even more so for you! Constructive comments seem hard for students to understand.. It’s like they’ve been taught to always insist everything is great! Even though it sometimes is, it sure is helpful to receive feedback from peers. Here’s to a better week!

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  3. bethabuchholz says:

    Sounds like a chaotic week! Even with everything you had going on, it sounds like you made the most of the little time that you had together. While there aren’t any photos (of COURSE the board would accidentally be erased before a photo was taken) and you felt stymied by their lack of interest in creating a rubric, the fact that you noticed a change in HOW children were talking about writing is significant! By inviting children to talk to each other and give feedback, you are essentially asking them to make the implicit explicit.

    Though students want to used a pre-made rubric, I wonder if you might suggest to them that this rubric is just a starting place and that together you’ll want to consider questions like: 1) what’s missing from rubric?, 2) in what ways is the rubric helpful/confusing?, 3) where could the language on the rubric be more clear? where is it confusing?, 4) does this rubric help us become stronger writers? (in what ways?), 5) what tool might be more helpful in supporting us as writers? In other words, we want to help them think deeply and critically about the rubric based on all that they’re learning about argumentative/opinion writing. We want to help the rubric become something that feels like it is truly theirs–something that helps them DURING the writing writing process rather than just a teacher assessment tool that is used once the writing is finished.

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