Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Reading Response Sharing : Reflection Questions and Responses

The only “big” writing assignment we’ve done this quarter has been the Reading Response, in which students choose to either journal as a character in a book or write a letter to an author. We obviously did lots of freewriting, but we also practiced the isolated skill of sentence combining, and practiced organizing and forming strong constructed response answers. I could write a whole post lamenting the "lack" of writing that we've done this quarter, but I'm always encouraged when I look at the students' freewriting, or they tell me about what they're writing in their freewriting, or I hear them sharing their freewriting, which we do every time we freewrite.

Well, after spending time working on these Reading Responses, I had the students share their writing before earning a score. I’ve found that when students share their writing, outside of the “revision” or “peer review” stage, especially after the due date, they look with a more critical eye. Students seem to have the idea: “This is my perfect, finished piece,” in their minds, so they get really worried if they see a mistake. Throughout the “peer review” stage, more significant (or true) revision can occur and reflection, but many students seem reluctant to engage in this revision because of a multitude of reasons--they could be "married to their writing" and don't want to change it, they could be tired of toiling away with the piece and don't want to work on it any more, among many other reasons. Working with students to gain greater depth in their revision is still a skill that I am working on as a teacher; in fact, I’m reading The Revision Toolbox: Teaching Techniques That Work by Georgia Heard right now. But it's amazing how the critical eye of teacher correctness comes out when the students are sharing their writing, after "it's all done."

On Monday I gave the students their papers back and told them that I had not graded the papers yet. I wanted the students to all get to share their writing at least twice, with six to eight different classmates (groups of four and five). But as the students shared, I had them keep a pencil in hand, and make “minor corrections” (what English teachers would call “editing”) to the piece. This would show me that the students are aware of the rule/issue/mistake and work to correct it. Then I asked the students to answer two questions. The questions and some of the responses are below. *I typed the students responses as I read them, without corrections.

1. What is one thing you fixed/changed in your own Reading Response?
• I changed some of my words from characters names to I or me.
• I put commas instead of parentheses.
• I had a few capitalization errors that I changed.
• I fixed a sentence that didn’t fit the topic of the paragraph.
• I combined sentences and made corrections in punctuation.
• I fixed an “a” into the word “as”.
• Some of the sentences I added and took away words.
• I fixed a sentence that needed “The” because the sentence was incomplete.
• I clarified what a port wine stain was.
• I capitalized a title.
• I changed my reading response by adding more words to my sentences to make the reading response much understanding
• I added the spelling and age of the character of choice
• I changed a couple punctuation marks in my writing. I also changed a couple of my sentences.
• I fixed one of my sentences because I forgot to put a word I need in it.
• One thing I fixed was a spelling mistake.
• I changed a few words that were past tense into present.
• One thing that I fixed/changed in my book was when I forgot to add a word and punctuation.
• I fixed the parentheses from my 2nd paragraph.
• I forgot to italicize the title in one spot so I went back and fixed it.
• I added my characters age.
• I fixed a bunch of pronouns.
• I changed a couple of words and phrases that did not make sense and that were pronouns.
• In my Reading Response I took out a part that didn’t make sense.
• I fixed my wording in the summary so now it is easier to understand.
• I fixed punctuation like commas.
• I took out two words out that made sentences confusing.
• I took out a sentence that didn’t make sense where it was.
• I clarified something that I didn’t know.
• I changed a few sentences in my writing.
• I changes some words to past tense.
• I fixed the beginnings of my journal entries by cutting them out. By doing that, I made the entries more journal like.
• I just fixed some words.
• I changed some theres to theirs.
• I saw a place in my letter where a comma was needed so I corrected my paper and added a comma.
• I changed he’s and she’s to the names of characters
• Capitalization
• I fixed many typoes in my story.
• I fixed a sentence.

2. What is one thing you learned about another book/author/character from your sharing? Who did you learn it from?
• I learned some books that I want to read.
• In the book Girl, Stolen the main character Cheyenne is blind and has been kidnapped.
• I learned that Life of Pi teaches you Christian living.
• In Gone, this girls autistic brother can teleport.
• I learn that Mr. Obert Skyle has written great books and has captured Alex’s attention.
• I learned that a boy who gets really attached to someone feels there pain.
• I learnd from Emily’s book I learned that if you love someone that youll do anything to help them.
• I learnt that Bruiser is a book about a boy who when he cares about someone he can take away their pain.
• I learned from Hanna that the little things in life matter.
• One thing I learned about someones book was that Molly’s book has a character named Ethan and he never gives up and no matter how hard he pushes hisself it is never enough.
• I learned that Carl Dueker (author of Heart of a Champion) has another book called gym candy.
• Brant showed me the Diary of a Wimpy Kid stories end happily.
• I learned that in pride and prejudice the author named the main character after herself.
• I learned from Kinsie that the character Savy from the book Boost is very passionet about basketball.
• I learned from Alex that the Haddix books are about kids who travel back in time.
• I learned that Percy is always in danger, and is constantly having to save his girlfriend Annabeth from monsters.
• I learned the story Cracker is about the Vietnam war.
• I learned that Drizzle sounds like a pretty good fantasy fiction.
• I learned that Jane in Bloom is a very sad book, just like I thought.
• Autumn’s response was about Claim to Fame (I think that’s the title) seemed really interesting. It was about a girl who’s famous and fan hear everything anyone can say about her. She ends up isolating herself.
• Jane in Bloom seems like a great book. Its sad that Lizzie dies, but it seems interesting.

These responses don't reveal a depth of revision that I hope to achieve through continued practice, but they do show that students are not reluctant to improve their writing. It would be cynical and wrong of me to assume that students are lazy and don't want to improve their writing, because that would further assume that students don't care about learning and being successful. I am a firm believer in my students, and their human desire to learn and grow, and be successful. In English, that mostly means gaining new, sometimes interesting, but always hopefully effective ways to communicate ideas. That's what I'm here to help these students achieve. I really enjoy the process of learning to become a better writer, because I enjoy the struggle. I also enjoy working with students as they struggle and learn and grow through the process. In the end, we're all struggling together to learn and grow together.

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