Some kids love to write. Some kids hate it. How do you keep everyone engaged in the writing process? Here are three quick ideas.
1. Editing Table: Establish a table or area of the room that has at least two chairs. During composition time, students who are ready to have their writing peer-edited may go and sit at the editing table. As soon as another student is ready to peer edit, he or she will go over to the table to find a partner. Each peer-editing pair leaves the editing table area once they are matched up.
With variations, I use this method in my classroom all the time. If a lot of students are ready to peer-edit, I create the first pairs. After that, students move to the editing table as they wrap up. I usually ask that students peer-edit with at least three different people.
As soon as a pair approaches the editing table, the two students who are sitting there waiting to find a new partner MUST pair up and move away to begin work. The editing table in not a work area and no more than two people should ever be there at any given time.2. Peer-Editing Process: Even reluctant writers enjoy reading their work aloud to a captive audience. However, to make the most of peer-editing time it’s better for each partner to read the OTHER person’s writing aloud. This gives the author a chance to hear how his or her words sound.
It can be very effective for a writer to see a classmate struggle over pronunciation due to the author’s spelling errors or awkward wording. Also, children learn the language of writing during this process. Nothing is more wonderful than hearing one student tell another, “You need a transition here.” Also, student authors are less likely to be offended by a peer editor who asks “What do you mean here?”
If you require your students to use this shared reading process, remind them that the author has ultimate control over his or her words. For example, if one student tells the other that a word doesn’t make sense, it’s the writer’s decision to change it or let it stand. Partners suggest, but they are never to insist. In the end, the writer earns the grade, not the peer editor.3. Monitor Progress: Provide a way for students to see how they are progressing. When conferencing with students offer them two positive comments and one constructive criticism. For example, a teacher might say, “Zack, you did a really good job with spelling and punctuation. I also like the way you tied the topic sentence to the closing sentence. Your personal challenge for next time is to avoid repeating any one word or phrase too often. Did you notice that four of your sentences in this composition begin with, “He really likes…?”
Students also benefit from monitoring their own progress either along the writing process, or within a specific set of skills. You can create a writing process monitoring chart and have students move move a clothespin up the chart from prewriting, to drafting, and so on, all the way to finishing the final draft.
Each student may also have his or her own goal chart with a list of three to five skills on which they will focus. Students with introductory writing skills may focus on writing neatly, using complete sentences, and including a topic sentence. Students with more sophisticated writing skills may focus on point of view, using specific language, and adding figurative language. The key is setting small, reachable goals, and acknowledging each tiny improvement. Click here, to download the assessment ladder of skills that could be used to develop student goals. (See below.)
Writing can be fun for both teachers and students. The best way to insure student success is to: (1) encourage students to write and rewrite until the meaning is clear, (2) provide ongoing opportunities for students to share their writing with their peers and interact, and (3) set clear, easy-to-meet goals for students still developing their skills.
What do you do in your class to make your writing lessons more interesting? Please share your ideas below. I’d love to hear from you!