As a literacy coach, I wear a lot of hats: book groups, lessons with classes, lessons for small groups, book talks, meetings with teachers, special things like the Newbery club with the librarian. I am always happy to work with students and enjoy that bit of ‘being back in the classroom’. What cannot be helped, even with a talk with the teacher, is that I can’t know all that has gone before. I can’t know how much students are used to revising, or if they’re in and out with a couple of drafts, and then moving on. I do ask both the teachers and the students, yet still nagging in the back of my brain. What's different is that they're not my students and I have not spent hours with them.
When planning, I do talk with the teacher to outline most of what I’ll be doing, but it still isn’t enough. We all work hard to make it work, and talk later to plan what’s next. I’m not complaining, just telling how it goes. A few weeks ago I shared that I was starting a class of our middle school students on an assignment to research and write a spoken word piece about their names. I led the lesson, showing several examples of writing about names, and during the rest of the week, the teacher shared other examples of personal essays about names, some poetry too. The expectation was open ended, parents were asked to help by making themselves available for interviews, and students brought a first draft the following week. I paired them, twice, and they left with two responses from classmates. This past Monday, with a second draft ready, they worked with two classmates again, made notes on their work, but turned them in. The teacher and I each have a copy.
This work with these awesome students, by the way, brings more questions to the work:
I will respond to the content and flow of the writing tonight only, and have finished about two-thirds. Some are not very exciting; some are wonderful. I have settled in, like several years ago, like many of you, to a few hours of response. I never minded this in the past, and I am enjoying reading. This time, however, my dilemma is that I don’t know the students very well, and am unsure about response. And because of these thoughts, I remember sometimes being unsure as a teacher too. How much is too much? When is it time to settle and finish with copy edits on the next draft?
When you have to read your students’ work,
How much do you critique?
How much do you stay away, even if you have an idea that it could improve?
Do you tell how to improve (if large changes needed), or do you allow the student to go with his or her own idea, after some conferring?
When is it time to stop?
What are the questions I'm not asking?
Because I’m pondering all these as I read, I thought it was a good conversation I would pose to you readers. If you have time to share, I’d love to hear your ideas. Thanks!