More details about all of this to come, but I’ve been really busy with work the last few months and want to at least get the beginning of this idea in front of your eyes. I feel like I’ve been cooking something up for the longest time with nothing to show for it along the way. Here’s a peek.
The biggest return on investment of my time has come from a very simple method that you already know, but likely aren’t putting to use. When you’re reading student work, take the time to type out samples of strong and weak writing (change that gerund to fit your subject area). It’s a chore, to be sure, but well worth it. I can see this being especially powerful if done on a regular basis. Students looking at writing almost inevitably results in this comment: “Someone actually handed this in?” Given good or bad examples, that comment will surely come out. That’s at least one step toward creating stronger writing, no matter the writer. It also encourages peer editing like you wouldn’t believe. This will be a set piece of my curriculum next year.
Moving Things Around
I typed out sample sentences/paragraphs from each batch of the last two writing assessments. For the first batch of student samples, I typed each paragraph nice and large on a sheet of paper and gave each pair a total of six paragraphs to move around.
“Create two piles,” I said. “Which ones passed and which ones did not? There will be three paragraphs in each pile.”
Great conversations ensued, both in the small groups and as a class. Some shocking revelations occurred (“That one didn’t pass!?”). This was worth my time.
For the next batch, again with a focus on physical manipulation, each of three paragraphs was cut into into sentence strips. The paragraphs started simple (one quotation, one paraphrase, one connection to thesis), but developed more complexity by paragraph three (inverted progression, multiple evidence). Again, some very cool conversations happened and startling results laid out.
After each one of these, I handed out a sort of key that had all the writing on it. My hope is that those handouts will provide samples of what should and should not be done. Monday will see a pile of the latest writing on my desk, so I’ll see if this had any impact. We’ll also be doing a piece of in-class writing next week.
Coming Soon…I Promise
I’ll try to do a better write up of this within the week. Seeing these handouts would help make this clear and could be of use to you. I’ve also stumbled on a good way to move through Richard Wright’s Black Boy in terms of writing, though my class discussion of the novel suffered as a result. A formulaic way to write book recommendations, ideas for speech, struggles with finals, and an AP decision loom, as well.