Eventually the time will come when we ask our students to self-reflect and/or assess their writing. Sometimes in the form of a rubric – sometimes in the form of a checklist – two stars and a wish, whatever you want to call it. However, the issue I often run into is that students are not accurate in their self-assessment and consequently don’t realize how they can improve on their writing next time around. After much to and fro with my awesome co-teacher Ms. Yuka we agreed that the reason their self-assessments weren’t as powerful as they could be was due to the fact that they didn’t really know what they were looking for in the first place. For example, I might think I have a powerful lead to start my personal narrative piece, but if I don’t have a model for what a powerful lead really is how might I really know?
Our solution … as follows:
- Lead a mini-lesson modelling with a printed A3 sheet student exemplar story. We use a copy of a student exemplar we have scanned from year’s past but anything you like goes.
- Annotate the model piece of writing with post-it notes highlighting what we are noticing the author is doing. For example, they have a snapshot lead that helps paint a picture of the setting. The characters are using dialog. The story ends with a lesson learned. The idea is to really be observant and go through the piece of writing with a fine tooth comb looking at the intentional moves the author is making.
- Set students up in partnerships and have them annotate the exemplars (I give them each a printed A4 sheet with our class anchor charts so they can notice more easily;) Also, for easy management I print each exemplar story on different color paper.
- Students go back to their own writing annotating what they notice in their work. When we did this everyone was really into it and they spent easily 15 minutes scouring through their writing. And everyone was really into it!
- When done students are now in a better place to complete their rubric/checklist as they have tangible data/evidence to prove what they have (or have not) included in their piece. Just today I had a student remark that “Oh, I don’t like my beginning. It’s boring. I want to make it with dialog … and off he went to revise” – with intent.