No day but today…

Yesterday, I wrote about the power I felt when receiving feedback about my own writing. Many of the comments I received on this piece said things like, “we can’t wait to see how you get this going with kids!” I tucked that in the back of my mind, feeling like that was a big undertaking…for another day.

Later in the day, I was teaching writing in a third grade classroom where I’m supporting a guest teacher who took over for a teacher who had her baby a few weeks earlier than expected. Initially, my principal asked me to model for the first week, to give a vision of what the work could look like. I’ve since proposed staying on… for my own research.

As a coach, I miss the consistency of a classroom community. The day to day connections across the school day. The opportunities to see the daily growth that happens. So, being part of this third grade classroom has been a gift. Teaching writing is so fun. I’ve been able to practice all the pieces that I believe in on a day to day basis. I’ve taken kids’ writing home and noted strengths and next steps-really quickly. I’ve used these noticings to pull small groups. I’ve watched kids light up because of the feedback they have received and the way they were able to push themselves based on that same feedback. I’m working to highlight big ways that writers can grow their own writing, using tools such as checklists and mentor texts. Most importantly, I’m working hard to build students’ identities as writers.

Since we have been working to write literary essays, today’s small group was focused on finding more than one piece of evidence to support your big, bold claim and pushing to find this evidence from across the text. As I finished up with the group and they were busying revising their essays, right there on the rug, I surveyed the class and could tell they had lost steam. Today’s mini lesson was on conclusions and I could tell we had reached the end of the rope with these drafts. I considered conferring with the kids that seemed most done.

Then I decided to use this as an opportunity to teach kids to give each other feedback. I called the students to the rug, with their writing. We quickly reviewed all of the things we had learned about writing essays. Then I asked the students to meet with their writing partner, using all they have learned, to listen and give each other feedback. I handed each student a blue post-it and encouraged them to write the feedback down. “Today’s feedback might become tomorrow’s goal.”

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know how much partner work the class had engaged in up until this point. Honestly, I thought there might be a few pairs that did the work and that most might talk about other things.

But as I took a minute to just watch what happened, I saw partnerships where kids were reading, two sets of eyes on one paper. I heard feedback that mirrored the language and strategies we had been learning about together over the last week. I saw pencils flying across blue post-its, capturing helpful tips for continuing to grow their writing. I saw kids’ taking the work seriously, owning the work of helping others through the writing process.

This was a fun experiment in layering in peer feedback and I see opportunities to continue growing this process. I’m glad that I didn’t sit on the idea, waiting to make it a bigger deal. This feedback is vital and I’m going to keep figuring out how to make it part of every writing workshop.

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9 thoughts on “No day but today…

  1. “being part of this third grade classroom has been a gift” When we can take on that research mindset, when we sit before kids and think “what will I learn from them today” we become partners in the learning not just the vessels that deliver information. You watched, you thought, you set up a structure for them to grow – that talked and wrote and you learned! The best! Thanks for sharing!

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  2. We learn so much about ourselves as writers during March, and I love how you turned it around and used it with students. Partnerships and writing groups are tough to get right, no matter what your age, and kids need a lot of support and instruction on how to provide useful feedback. Those are lucky third graders to get you in addition to a long term sub.

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  3. So much to take from this. I’m going to reread later. First launching a new or guest teacher with solid teaching so she can watch her class in action, what a wonderful idea. Then giving the partnerships power, real authentic work. That’s how to make learning stick

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  4. There is real power in living in a classroom for a longer period of time. As coaches, we don’t often get a chance to take on this longer term work, and I think it is important. This is where we have to plan, use student work, consider growth, give feedback (to kids and teachers), and really “walk the walk,” It must be fun. I’m quite sure there will be some nice payoff in your coaching work as well.

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  5. Your post shows such commitment to the right work with kids. Finding ways to make feedback more present and authentic is only going to help those kids grow as writers. Bravo!

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  6. The writing workshop model is really how writers learn the discourse of the writing community — how to talk like a writer, think like a writer, support other writers. The more they are engaging in this way, not only will writing improve, but the community’s understanding and compassion for one another will thrive — thank you for this.

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  7. What a gift for these kids and for you and the guest teacher! As coaches, missing out on the time and relationships with kids leave a bit of a hole in your heart, doesn’t it? I love the model of you pushing in for awhile, and how you demonstrated for us the strength of your “kid watching.”

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  8. Peers are so powerful, sometimes positively and others negatively, and therefore I’m hesitant at times. But when I do jump in I’m always amazed. Thanks for sharing your “experiments.” Keep them coming.

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  9. Your decision to look at the opportunity as a gift allowed you to BE a gift … and this:

    “Today’s feedback might become tomorrow’s goal” – the keyword is goal. A continuous striving for what’s just beyond reach, and then attaining it. That’s growth. Success. Power.

    -Well-done!!

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