Trying Out Some Choicer Words

My class completed a publishing cycle after launching our Writers’ Workshop, and this particular time around we are publishing in two ways–one is via our class writing blog, and the other is through author’s chair.  Later in the year I open up more choices, but I kind of wanted to get them to try a couple choices out right away.

While it will be a while before the blogging shakes out some interesting information for me, the author’s chair has given me an opportunity to try out a little of what I pulled from NCTE.  As each student finishes their piece, they are allowed to choose three people to give positive feedback.  I’ve been following up with three things I notice in their writing, trying not to assign particular value to it.  So for instance, instead of saying “that was great” or “I like how you…”, I’ve been reflecting craft and structure.  For example, I said to one kid, “I listened to your piece and heard you utilizing thoughtshots and repeating sentence structure as well as lots of dialogue.” 

At first, the students looked a little confused, but after a few authors they quickly acclimated.  This strategy had a couple of positive results that I’ve thus far noticed.  One, I think I’m paying a whole lot more attention to my young writers because I’m now being held accountable by the entire class to produce these observations.  Also–and I could be imagining this but I don’t think so–it seems the specificity of my students’ feedback to whoever is reading is increasing.  More, “I like how you repeated ‘why’, it really showed your sadness,” and less, “that was cool.”

I’m also noting my observations on my anecdotal notecards for each student writer, and I have a feeling I’ll learn something about what writing strategies are being adopted from focus lessons and conferencing just by looking over this information later.

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