Last year one of my ‘could have been betters‘ was my work with students to improve their written output. Yes I have a rubric/feedback form I like. Yes I use descriptors and not numbers to evaluate their writing. Yes I sometimes show exemplars during a writing ‘workshop’ to assist. And Yes – you may not agree – I sometimes use a “spot the problem” handout to help review common written language ‘issues’.
But I wanted to help push and develop their awareness of what I am looking for and their written output. So this year I have tried/am trying to add onto the process.
A ‘Physical’ Portfolio: Okay – it’s a paper folder – we’re not that tech-able in my school. But we’ve started to put all of the writing they have handed in – from activities like ‘Sketch and Share‘ to more formal pieces into the paper folder portfolio. I realized that what I handed back often got buried in their binders…I want to find it easily and be able to use the information in it. And, quite honestly, the physical presence of the folders in my room reminds me that we have them too!
Going Through the Rubric & Clarifying: It’s not enough, I found, for me to talk about what I am looking for. I need to hear what they ‘think’ I am looking for and for them to realize that they ‘get’ what the goal is, or not. So we took 1/2 a class and went line by line through the rubric/feedback form. What did they think each line meant? After they had a minute to discuss I told them what it meant to me… This was a chance for them to see if their thoughts matched up with my expectations!
Using the Portfolio As a Resource: Now before we write a piece – we take out the portfolio and look at past work. What were the comments and suggestions? What were issues in the last piece? Today my Year 3’s wrote 2 notes to themselves actually on the folder to ‘remember’ for next time. Some wrote a ‘suggestion’ that I had given them. Others wrote down a common error they tend to make over and over again. I’m going to look on this evolving “note to self” as a resource for ongoing use. Today, in the period prior to the Yr4 Murder Mystery write – I had a student come request her folder as she wanted to look at past pieces and comments.
I believe that the focus on the writing will also produce a ‘side bonus’ – a focus on the overall language that they use. That the may, perhaps, be more aware of what to say but the options/resources they have to say things in a different, more detailed way. There is a LONG way to go for me in this process…but it’s a start I’m pleased with!