Category Archives: Writing

Peer Editing

Peer editing is a god-send and a nightmare, and it all depends on which peers are doing the editing. Sometimes I observe thoughtful commentary being written on student work while at other times I watch students virtually ignore what is read with no more than a “good job” written on the paper.

Thus, I have started using rounds. I know it’s not new, but it’s how I do this.

I have the students arrange desks in a large circle, and I give each student a bunch of sticky notes. The students place their own writing on the desk behind which they are standing. I am on the inside of the circle while the students are on the outside. Before we begin I hand each student a card, and each card has the specific skill or correction on which to comment. These may include a nuanced thesis, quotation usage, citation inclusion, capitalization, comma usage, pronoun/antecedent agreements, etc.

Then, I ask each student to rotate clockwise one desk, and we begin.

I begin the timer with 60 seconds. Each student gets about 45 seconds to read the piece and then has 15 seconds to write one critical comment on a sticky note and one kudos (which can be about anything read) during this time. Critiques are stuck on the desk to the left and kudos are stuck to the right. If this is a longer piece of writing, I then have the students write their names in the margin of the paper where they stopped reading, which allows a future reader to see where the editor left off.

After the 60 seconds everyone rotates, and we begin again. I usually rotate 10-15 times depending on how things are going and how long the writings are.

After 15 minutes or so, every student has a series of positive and critical comments, and each student only had one skill or correction on which to focus. This eliminates students getting overwhelmed, and, if we rotate enough times, two students may assess a piece of writing looking for the same corrections.

I monitor the process (and look for ways to improve it the next time), answer questions, keep students from chatting, and ensure everyone honors the process. Frequently, I follow the peer editing with some silent editing time where the students may use the sticky notes to mark their own papers. I can then move around the room helping students, and from time to time I allow students to partner up or talk with someone who edited his/her writing.

All in all, this has worked well for me.

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Letters Upon Letters

As a high school teacher who regularly teaches juniors and honors classes, I am frequently asked to write letters of recommendation for students. Eight weeks into school, and I have written 17 letters so far. Each one takes about thirty minutes to compose, so I have spent about 8.5 hours outside of the school day writing for my college hopefuls.

I don’t mind doing them for kids, but very few actually write a note of thanks back. Most do say “thank you” but often they seem to think it’s my duty–rather than a favor–to compose these letters of recommendation.

I know one teacher who only writes ten a year. Students sign up for one of the ten and then that’s it. She’s done.

While I understand why she does this, I don’t think that’s a route I want to take. I have jokingly thought that I should request a t-shirt if they get into their schools of choice. I would guess only about 1/4 to 1/3 would actually do it, but it could be a fun arrangement with the kids. And, if I were in the area of one of my former students, I could wear the shirt and take them out for lunch or something.

How many letters of recommendation do you write each year?

Help From the Blogosphere

I’m looking for different timed write formats to teach to my students. I’m curious what people are doing.

What formats or structures do you have your students use when composing a timed write, especially AP prompts?

I thank you in advance. 🙂

Integrate The Objectives

Well, I’m neck-deep in paperwork, meetings, and planning, but everything is working out well. Still, I want to accomplish three goals this week:

  • to have the students write in a different (and more fun) mode,
  • to force the students to review a literary work, and
  • to encourage my students to write with more sentence variety.

I am giving my students an assignment to write a break-up letter to someone in the style of The Declaration of Independence using the four structural elements as the format. Each student’s letter must have a preamble, a declaration of rights, a list of complaints, and a statement of independence.

In addition, the students have to (correctly) label and use a simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentence within the body of the letter (one each is the minimum but two each is required for a top score).

I think this short writing will present a challenge and allow some creativity. I’m excited to see how it goes.

Scoring Essays

I spent the last week teaching my students how to score AP essays, and they did a fantastic job!

We looked at the AP writing rubric and a retired prompt on Monday, and then scored a single paper based on that prompt each day this week. As we moved through the week, the kids’ scoring got more accurate each day.

The kids would read an essay and then put the score on a sticky note. I would then have a student grab the stickies in the vicinity, and the students would then put them up on the chart I made on the white board. This created a bar graph on the board for us to look at.

Then, I would ask the students to share their scores and explain why the score is appropriate using the rubric and evidence from the essay in the explanation. The kids actually started to debate the scores a bit, and I simply acted as a moderator.

Next, I asked the students if they wished to change their scores on the board. About 5-10 kids would have me move their stickies based on the conversations about the essay.

Once the stickies were finalized on the graph, I gave the students the actual score and explained the reasons. I allowed the students one more time to react, and then we looked at our accuracy.

On Thursday I gave the students a prompt I wrote based on the novel we’re reading, and I’m going to use the AP scoring guide to assess them.

This coming Monday I will hand out the students’ papers, have the kids look over what they wrote, write down with a colored pen what they would have done differently, and then try to score their essay using the AP rubric.

Lastly, I will give them their scores, and they will explain why our scores match or do not match.

All in all, it was a great week of talking about writing and assessing writing. From a geeky English teacher perspective: what a great sequence of days!

Argumentation and the School

I may have created a monster…well, maybe 95 of them. I gave my students the assignment of choosing a school issue and then use the rhetorical triangle to organize their ideas. They loved it!

Now they want to flood the administration with their proposals, and I am proud to admit that some of them are quite good. Woe to the administrators when they get these kids flooding their mail boxes and offices.

What a great few days!

The Rhetorical Triangle

This year I’m going to start my College in the High School class (American Literature) with the rhetorical triangle. We will focus on creating solid arguments which use all three appeals: emotional, logical, and ethical. Each time the students construct an essay, they will be required to map out their support (sometimes known as warrants) using these three appeals.

Lesson Idea!

Sometimes I put the intended audience in the middle of the triangle to make sure the students understand that their arguments must be focused towards the intended audience. This becomes very useful when tackling a controversial or broad issue and allowing the students to see that a change in audience results in a change in arguments.

For example, after drawing this triangle on the board, I tell the students that we are going to formulate arguments within each type of appeal with the purpose of explaining why year-round school is a good idea, and local parents are the intended audience. Once we come up with valid arguments covering pathos, logos, and ethos, we stop and I draw a second triangle next to the first.

Now, the audience is the student body. As we formulate arguments for this new audience, the students will see how they must tailor their ideas for this new audience. The purpose is the same, the appeals are the same, but the arguments begin to change.

Do you use the rhetorical triangle? How do you use it? What else do you use?