Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sharing Means Everything!

Slice of Life 23, March 23, 2011

“The vision must be followed by the venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps – we must step up the stairs.” Vance Havner

In the past month, I’ve been writing in a 5th/6th grade classroom, holding a workshop with students in non-fiction writing, specifically personal essays and memoir. I’ve written and shared and taught and evaluated.

It’s a wonderful class of students, eager to try new ideas, welcoming me in every way. I loved every minute of the time with them! In the final session, I held a final conversation with the group, asking several questions, the answers which we recorded on a chart: What parts of the workshop did you like, what parts were most helpful, what parts were challenging, and what have you found that you do best in writing? Most were forthright in saying that writing several drafts and finding new ways to say things was difficult. They ‘loved’ their words so it was hard to find new ways to say things.

They also said they enjoyed the lessons where we worked in specific areas (new kinds of leads, looking at beginnings of sentences, etc.). However, what I believe so strongly, and what they said often was how much they loved the peer response/review times. They liked the talk about their writing, hearing compliments about what others liked, hearing ideas for revision. Although it is so often difficult to find the time, I have worked very hard through the years to allow students to read others’ work and to respond-mostly orally, but also with sticky notes. Students listen to their peers in many ways, sometimes negatively, so it makes sense to take advantage of their influence and use it in positive ways.

My beliefs that peer influence in writing and other student work is strong, and has been supported over and over during these days of the Slice of Life challenge. Working to write my best for all of you and reading your comments gives me such motivation that I wake up every morning already trying to choose the topic of the day. I have tried to read as many posts as possible-starting early, ending late-hoping that some of my words give a boost. Sharing parts of my life in writing is scary, and I have learned that too, and will remember when I want students to share to give them safety in the sharing, as the comments you have made do for me.

Thank you everyone!

6 comments:

  1. I think my participation is the challenge is making me a better writing teacher. I like your idea of asking the students what they liked about workshop. I am planning on asking this very question to my creative writing students on my other blog. I want them to help shape next year's class.

    Happy Writing

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  2. I've really come to enjoy reading my comments. They are always upbeat and positive. You make a great point!

    Slicin' Away!

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  3. I agree with your students that it can be hard to add to your writing. When you put so much thought and care into the first round, it's had to stretch for more. As for the peer feedback, you are right on. I hunger for comments right now and almost judge my writing on how many comments I can get. How silly! Thank you for taking the time to comment...it is valued.

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  4. Seems you are writing about one of the most informative parts of teaching, when we ask our students to reflect on their learning and enjoyment of a unit we have just covered. I always learn a lot, sometimes surprising.
    And yes, I am learning so much from participating in this SOL challenge. Remarkable.

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  5. Yes indeed! If there is one thing I have learned this month it is the powerful motivating force of positive, encouraging peer comments. It is not that I start writing to please others, but that I begin to feel part of a community of encouragement where it is safe to take a bit of a risk. This is the atmosphere I want to create in my classroom.

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  6. Comments are wonderful. While I write for myself, it's an awesome feeling knowing others are reading and thinking about what I say. I got way behind in reading Slicers posts because I found so many new ones to read. Sorry I'm just now commenting on your posts.

    I completely agree with the oral comments from students. I think they get more out of a discussion of their work versus just written form.

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Having a conversation is a good thing!