Some kids love to write. Some kids hate it. How do you keep everyone engaged in the writing process? Use these three easy tips to streamline the revision process, provide opportunities for students to share their work, and quickly assess progress– and make writing fun!
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.
This approach relieves students’ anxiety about sharing their work, and it makes editing fun.
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 more likely to stop and consider when a peer 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…?”
To encourage growth, the key is to evaluate students not only on grade-level expectations, but on individual progress.
Students also benefit from monitoring their own progress. 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 advanced 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.
The students in a single class may have widely-varying writing skills. This can make it extremely challenging to assess student work. To encourage growth, the key is to evaluate students not only on grade-level expectations, but on individual progress. Like any new skill, writing is more fun when goals are clear and attainable.
Need an easy way to get started? Print off the free Assessment Ladder download using the link below.
The list of skills represent the ‘ladder of progress’ students need to ‘climb’ to be successful writers. The basic skills are closest to the bottom, such as using legible writing and avoiding repetition. Many students will struggle with these first skills for a long time. But, once they’re mastered, the speed at which they improve will increase. It’s very important to take time to help students develop these foundational skills.
Moving up the ladder, as the skills get more focused, the opportunity for student creativity broadens. By challenging your young writers to experiment with a variety of writing styles, you provide exciting opportunities for self-expression.
To begin, run off one Assessment Ladder sheet for each student. Using 2-3 writing samples for each student, start at the bottom of the list, and then place a mark in front of each skill the student has clearly mastered. Because each skill logically follows the one before it, students rarely have big gaps on the ladder.
When discussing a student’s progress, be sure to focus on the skills already mastered before setting the next challenge– the first unmarked skill as you move up the ladder.
Click here, to download the assessment ladder of skills for developing student goals.
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 or fun? Please share your ideas below. I’d love to hear from you!
Looking for more ways to make writing fun? Check out these resources!
SCRAMBLED PARAGRAPHS: WRITING SKILLS
This NO PREP activity packet contains eighteen (18) ready-to-use printables. Just copy and go!
The scrambled paragraphs in this unit are similar to those in Scrambled Paragraphs Mini Unit: Early Elementary Edition. The two products can be used together to differentiate instruction.
Scrambled paragraphs have eight (8) sentences that can be put together only one way. Students practice using transitions and inferential clues to assemble these organized, logical paragraphs.
The easy-to-use paragraph structure includes:
— a title,
— a topic sentence,
— three details with support; six (6) sentences, and
— a closing sentence or clincher.
Students cut out the nine parts of the paragraph, identify the three sentence pairs, and then correctly reassemble the scrambled paragraph on an answer sheet template.
Like training wheels on a bicycle, working with scrambled paragraphs helps students understand how to write their own ideas in a clear, organized manner. Students quickly learn it’s much easier to “build” an organized paragraph than it is to revise a disorganized paragraph.
PERSUASIVE/OPINION WRITING PACKET
This easy-to-use writing packet includes a list of over thirty (30+) persuasive/opinion sentence starters, six (6) writing sample worksheets, three (3) lists of persuasive/opinion prompts, a letter prewriting template, paragraph prewriting graphic organizer, and full-size answer keys.
The first, six (6) lessons review critical writing skills. The prompt lists, sentence starters, and prewriting activities help students make their writing logical and organized. Print and go!
1-Three (3) Paragraph Samples and Worksheets
* Informative/explanatory: organized by location,
* Narrative: organized by time order, and
* Persuasive/opinion organized by least-to-most important.
2-Three (3) Persuasive/Opinion Writing Samples w/ Worksheet Activities:
* Essay, and
* Forced Choice.
3-Three (3) Lists of Persuasive/Opinion Writing Prompts:
* Essays, and
* Forced Choice.
4-Persuasive/Opinion Sentence Starters: Student Handout
5-Persuasive/Opinion Letter Prewriting Template
6-Essay and Forced-Choice Persuasive/Opinion Prewriting Graphic Organizer
7-Full-Page Answer Keys for All Worksheets
The materials in this packet can be used in the sequence in which they appear, or in any order that best fits the curriculum.
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