Nicholas Gearing , ,
8th Grade ELA : Unit #5 - Fahrenheit 451 - Novel Study : Lesson #8

Writing About Theme in "The Hearth and the Salamander" - Editing and Peer Support

Objective: Students will work in teams to evaluate, edit, and improve one another's essays about the theme.
Standards: W.8.5 SL.8.1 SL.8.1a SL.8.3 SL.8.4
Subject(s): English / Language Arts
60 minutes
1 Anticipatory Set - 5 minutes

To begin the class period, I ask the students to take out their first drafts of the essay from the previous class. They are expected to read it through entirely and then write down at least 3 areas they would like specific help and feedback on during the next part of the lesson. They will share this request with their peers during workshop time in order to focus the feedback they receive and genuinely make quality revisions to their work. I begin the day this way as a result of the experience I share in the Writers Workshop and the Very Simple Solution video.

2 Guided Practice - 40 minutes

After students have written down their workshop "wish list," I make sure that each of my table groups has 3-4 members. Once the groups are in place, I explain the process to them. We have done this before, but I find that it is helpful to refresh their memories each time as to the expectations and procedure. I have each group's members count off 1-2-3-4 so that each of the rotations will focus on one group member at a time. 

In the first rotation, student 1 in each of the groups will read his or her essay aloud to the other group members. As he or she is reading, the other group members just listen. Student 1 will then read it again one more time and the other group members may take any notes necessary for feedback. Once student 1 has read the paper a second time, each of the group members, in order numerically, will provide a piece of feedback about a specific success or strength in the paper. Each of the group members must offer an original piece of feedback each time. Then, each group member will offer the student a specific piece of feedback related to something that can be improved upon. We call these OFIs, Opportunities For Improvement. As the group members are giving the feedback, student 1 is taking notes on his or her essay. 

This process will repeat for each of the remaining group members, in numerical order (which follows clockwise in my class). Each rotation consists of 9 minutes roughly. This leaves each group with about 4 minutes at the end to trade and look at conventions and mechanics for one another. This happens with each member of the group trading clockwise and editing the essay they receive. In groups that only have 3 members, they will be able to complete 3 peer editing rotations like this. I try to make sure that students who are in a group of 3 members one time are not during the next workshop to "share the love."

Each student can then leave this experience with some clear ideas for improving their writing which will hopefully continue to build their confidence and their skill set.

Why This Process?
Routines and Procedures

In our efforts as a department, and especially as the leader of that department, we determined it was essential that we work to better meet the needs of our students, supporting them as they made strides to improve their writing abilities. To accomplish this, we worked as an informal lesson study group, researching tools and strategies that have shown consistent and positive results. During this time, I became aware of the Northern Nevada Writing Project Document that offered many interesting and helpful points, findings, and suggestions. While I did not adopt this process in its entirety, I took from it some major concepts that I was able to inject into my already established protocols with relative ease. The thing that most stood out to me while first reading the document was that students are capable of providing meaningful and constructive feedback when given more focused direction first. I had not asked my students in previous years to come to these sessions with goals and needs in mind already. Instead, students simply traded papers, read over them, made somewhat of an attempt at providing effective feedback, and then looking for errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Essentially, they remained, for the most part, in a very superficial part of the process. It is due to this that students did not see the value in participating in such a process, and thus continued to do less and less to improve it and make it worthwhile for themselves.

My reading offered me renewed hope that the students could be re-engaged and renewed, leading to growth and improvement. Something as simple as setting specific goals prior to conferencing with one another has made an amazing impact in the depth, level, and constructiveness of the feedback the students provide for each other.