Two weeks ago, I proposed five questions to our readers to ponder as they wrapped up the school year. I just finished with students on Friday and have been sifting through samples and paperwork. As I processed through the progress of my students, one of the five questions I asked two weeks ago stood out for me.
“What is one area of the writing process I consistently noticed as a deficit?”
This was my second year with third graders. Last year I was swimming around with glee marveling at the amazing things third-grade students could do! It was fantastic. This year, I wanted to expand on all I had learned and grow even more. However, in that desire to grow and experiment, I lost necessary consistency when it came to one particular area. I still believe that good things happened, that growth happened, but I also needed to take a step back and look at what the information was telling me.
As I looked at writing samples from fall to spring I consistently noticed that my students did not make as much growth in conventions as they did in the overall structure and development of their writing. This is not a new issue for me. I have always gravitated toward teaching students to expand their ideas within the processes of planning, drafting, and revising. Editing a piece has always been a challenge. Students use checklists and partners. I confer with students, make mini-charts, and monitor. When students know I am coming around to look for non-negotiable words or punctuation they become more intentional seekers. However, when left to be independent and monitor their own work, they just miss the mark. I think I’ve been missing the mark too. I’ve taught them how to punctuate. I’ve given them tools for spelling across common patterns and high-frequency words. I try to use the mid-workshop check-ins for particular conventions each week. However, I think other elements of the process crept in more often than the conventions piece. Changing this and intentionally involving students in the process will be a new goal this coming school year.
Editing our own work as a writer is difficult. We read it the way we intend it to sound. We don’t see the missing comma or the misspelled word. This is why professional writers work with professional editors. I want to create a training program for students to become “professional” editors. As I begin to imagine what it might look like, I see students becoming more empowered to become the experts I know they can be and I think it could be magical. My initial thoughts are to break the conventions into small pieces that are most relevant to certain times of the year. Since most months have four weeks, I would then split my class into four flexible heterogeneous groups. Each person would have a job related to editing that suited his or her strengths in the editing process. By the end of the week, each student would have received the initials of a “professional” editor within each small category of the focused conventions showing they had met. Keeping the focused conventions to a minimum and doubling up editors on each focus would be necessary and more efficient. Building in daily opportunities for peer editing that carried responsibility would create a more intentional editing process.
I always enjoy thinking about the year ahead. Imagining changes I hope to make. Thinking about opportunities I hope to take. I see this deficit as an opportunity to take third-graders to the next level. With the right plan and time invested in the process, I have no doubt that students will become better at evaluating their own use of conventions.
Daughter, sister, wife, mother, teacher, and writer.