Writers need feedback. Frequently. My high school students are working on writing narratives. After storyboarding, I asked them to find the heart of the story and to write that single scene to the best of their ability. Then they gave it to me.
I spent one evening reading and responding to what they had written. I was reminded of the importance of this kind of formative, on-going assessment. The insights I gained of the writers in my classroom was remarkable.
Since I collected a single scene from each student and it was early in the process, I was able to give timely feedback. I also gained a nice picture of the group as a whole. Typically I depend on my conferences to give me insight into the bulk of students when we are in-process.
Collecting a scene is something I will do again and encourage others to do. When we read students work when they are in process, we are able to give feedback they can use immediately. This is different than the kind of feedback I could give during conferring because I was looking at a piece of writing that had been polished a bit for an outside reader.
Another difference was I could see patterns emerge immediately. Although this is true with conferring, it typically takes a few days to see patterns in a class. By collecting and reading everyone’s scene at the same time the patterns really jumped out to me. I was able to plan the next few minilessons in response to the needs of the group.
I’m going to make it a point to collect more in-process drafts to review during a unit. I think it makes teaching in response to student needs a little easier.