Tomorrow is the students' AP exam for this class, so as a way to review for the test without focusing just on test-taking strategies (I have done some of that, but I think that the day before the test, doing something they feel good about to give them a positive disposition is more important), the students will conduct a peer review protocol where they discuss a number of rhetorical elements of each others' final papers for the course. They will come in having prepared detailed notes for each of their group members' essays, so this lesson will work on a number of the speaking and listening standards, as well as review their knowledge of reading non-fiction for rhetorical appeals and strategies, and work on the revision process for their own writing. Since they will be tested on their reading and writing skills tomorrow, I thought this was a good way to review the basics of rhetoric regarding reading and writing that they can internalize because it is their own work and the work of their peers. Of course, the final ten minutes I'll do some final cheer-leading with them as they go into the exam Friday!
We went over how the protocol will go yesterday, but as you know with teens (particularly in the springtime!), yesterday might have well been last year. So, I'll will take a few minutes to review the protocol they will work with today by having it on the Smartboard and walking through each step, emphasizing that the more specific to the text they can be in their comments, the more help they will be for their peers, and also the stronger review for tomorrow.
Today students will participate in a peer-review protocol that builds on the "Two Stars and a Wish" peer-review work they've done earlier in the year. I've added more preparation work for the students on this one; they will come in to class having completed peer review worksheets on each of their group members' papers (3 total). Most of this work will have been done in class yesterday--because this is a final paper and also a review for their AP Exam, I wanted to do it in class to help if there were problems, and also to make sure everyone did it (even though they are AP students, it is spring, and homework doesn't always get done as efficiently at this time of year).
The protocol is as follows:
1. Students will choose a timekeeper/facilitator and which essay they will work with first.
2. (NOTE: For this protocol, the writer will NOT speak until AFTER the other group members have talked about the piece; they should, however, take notes and have their own essay in hand for reference/annotating). One person will start by reading/explaining their Two Stars and a Wish review of the essay. State what she or he thinks the central idea is first, then go through the rest of the ideas from the worksheet (5 minutes maximum).
3. Other members of the group then do the same, though they may simply "echo" another assessment if they had a similar perspective. Conversely, if two members have a different perspective (such as a different view of tone), they may briefly discuss why (5 minutes each--facilitator makes sure of time and that conversation is on task).
4. The WRITER will first state what their intended central idea is. Then, they will ask any questions they might have regarding the feedback, or for advice/suggestions (5 minutes). Group members will give their feedback sheets to the writer for reference (writers will hand these in with final paper).
5. Move on to the next essay and follow the same procedure.
As with other protocols I've done during the year, the time feature is really to keep students focused and on task, and efficient. As with other parts of this lesson, protocols have been something we've done throughout the year, so I expect they will be able to fall right into the process, and even alter it slightly if they wish.
While students are doing this, I will circulate around the room to listen in to their conversations, both to hear where students have gone with these essays, but also to assure they are clear about the rhetorical appeals and strategies--if there are any misconceptions, I may enter the discussion for a moment to clear that up as they go into tomorrow's exam.
Finally, I will tell the students that we will likely not finish today, but that every student will get a full discussion of their work in class (I would rather take two days than have one student's paper rushed through. Also, I want to spend the final ten minutes of class doing some cheer-leading with them as they go into the AP Exam tomorrow).
I can’t tell you how proud I am of these students today! They were so on task and making such poignant, meaningful comments that it was one of those times I could clearly see growth in their learning both regarding rhetoric, but also in their ability to participate in a strong academic discussion. I really never saw the need to interrupt, and in fact I think my presence would have disrupted the flow of the conversations. At the end of class I asked students how they felt, and a couple noted how they really liked the peer review sheet—that it helped focus them. For me, I really saw how the consistent use of protocols taught students how to have an academic conversation—a couple groups changed the protocol to go around element by element from the sheet because it felt more natural, and I immediately saw that they had the better idea, and offered it to everyone.
Another side note regarding the speaking and listening growth, as well as reading and writing growth I saw today, is that it really has me question the value of the block schedule. AP classes are the only ones that run a full year in our building, and this is the first one I’ve taught. The growth the students have shown in the second half of the year—the time a lose my fall English classes—makes me think that maybe time in terms of days on learning is more important than hours on learning (long-block provides more clock time on learning than other school schedules). And, that some of the growth on things like speaking and listening may not show up substantially on standardized tests. Of course, block schedule is more economically efficient, so the likelihood of changing is small!
Attached are three final essays students handed in and accompanying rubrics with my comments on the right hand side and the score for each item. This is the same rubric I used for the research argument, though I told the students that in this case the "outside evidence" simply means that they should use different types of evidence in their piece (for example, not only personal experience); the key is to use evidence that furthers their argument and appeals to the audience. I do not total scores when students do essays because I want them to focus on the feedback associated with the different standards. Each score is out of 10 (to make it easy for students and myself to translate their score to a percentage-based grade).
Overall I am very pleased with the final essays; they show a lot of growth in each student's writing.
Also, there is a "blank" rubric (since it is an AP class, I don't find the need to have the Needs Improvement column--I work with individual students if they are in that space in any of the categories).