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.