How to Move Your Writers Forward [Exponentially]
One of my commitments to myself each year is to read both professionally and for pleasure on a regular basis. Don't get me wrong, I love to read. I just don't always have a lot of bandwidth left by the time I sit down with a book in the evening. [Translation: I'm falling asleep more than I'm reading.] That being the case, I have had to be creative to fit my reading time in. I keep a book with me most of the time. Whenever I have a few minutes of waiting time, I read. Some days I'm inching my way through my book and other days, I'm flying. [It beats falling asleep and rereading the same page over and over.] 😴
One book I recently finished was Feedback That Moves Writers Forward by Patty McGee.
Oh my goodness! This is a must read for anyone who aspires to help children become amazing, thoughtful writers. This is one of those resources that does it all. It is informative, helpful and passionate. It is a must read for any teacher who teaches writing K-12.
Feedback = growth
It is impossible to become a great writer in a vacuum. Feedback is important to our growth as writers (and lots of other things), and so it is for our students as well. It's so easy to let the daily pressures and the latest bandwagon in education to distract us from our real goals in the classroom. Yes, there are pretty, shiny new ways to teach. Yes, it is exciting to do something new. And yes, some of the "new" is worthwhile. However, there is only so much time in one day, one week and one school year. We simply have to choose. We cannot do it all and do it well. Sometimes that means getting rid of or limiting some of the bells and whistles in favor of some solid, quiet work time. Give your students the gift of time (to write).
If we want exponential growth in writing for our students, some of the choices we need to make are:
- Practice writing ourselves.
- Use your own writing as an example for teaching.
- Provide time for students to write every day (or several times a week).
- Give regular, solid feedback to our students.
- Provide students with authentic writing opportunities.
- Give students as much choice within assignments as we can.
- Teach students to reflect on their writing.
- Walk the line between feedback and grading.
Feedback takes time
Giving and receiving feedback forces us to slow down just a bit and have some conversations. I know, it sounds time consuming and impossible. Never fear. Ms. McGee has lots of great ideas for how to make this work within the bounds of a real classroom. Notice I didn't say after school or at home while grading writing papers. Right up my alley! Feedback that moves our writers forward all done as students are busy writing in class. Win!
Bonus: All of her forms are right in her book and available to be downloaded online and used for free as well.
One last thought... there is growing usage of simpler rubrics for grading writing. A simplified rubric has only the proficient expectations for each graded area listed. The high end and low end are not listed. It makes for faster rubric creation and they're easier for students to decipher. These rubrics focus on feedback and improvement as opposed to checklists of items. Here's a sample tailored to assessing a few specific items. See what you think.
What is the best professional book you have read? Share it in the comments below.