A valuable way to provide writing feedback | Mentoring in the Middle

A valuable way to provide writing feedback

A lot of teachers don't like to teach writing.  It can be overwhelming to think about how to merge grammar and conventions without taking the creativity out of writing.

I've written before about how using mentor sentences jump starts the writing process for many  students.  You can read about starting out with mentor sentences here and about slowing down the process to allow for valuable descriptions here.

The Spit It Out and Have the Teacher Correct it Model

The most challenging part of the process for me is getting students to look with a critical eye, at their own writing.  The typical scenario looks like this:

       Student:  Would you read my writing?

       Me:  Sure, what part would you like me to read?

       S:  quizzically, Um...all of it?

      M:  I can't read all (insert number here - 3, 7, 17....) pages right now.  Is there a section you're    especially proud of or one you're struggling with that you'd like me to look at?

      S:  blank stare

With sixth graders, I generally refuse to be their copy editor until they've lent a critical eye to their own work.  The "spit it out and have the teacher correct it model" doesn't fly with me.

One of the best tools to get students to look critically at their writing is with an FREE app called Peergrade.  (This is not an affiliate link!  I'm not sure they even have them.)  What I love about it is that after students upload their text (I usually suggest a paragraph they're struggling with) it randomly assigns that paragraph to two or three other students.  Everything stays ANONYMOUS.  So you can't tell your best friend that her writing is great simply because you don't want to make her mad.

Peergrade assigns a simple rubric for students to follow.  Or you can make your own.  For the writing my students did last week, I used theirs.

Here are some other comments:

The thing I like about it is that it gives off a lot of details about the place and year.  The bad thing about it is that it is a whole sentence and has no punctuation.

I think it has amazing potential you seem to be very good at explaining this kind of stuff keep up the good work.You seem to be skipping around talk about how you got into this mess and a little bit more on how his or her friends got captured and maybe how they got into the concentration camp.

The best part?  Paying attention to the details in someone else's writing helps them lend a more critical eye to their own.  

Peergrade has proven to be a valuable tool for my students to use!

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