Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Better planning for better writing

Despite my enthusiasm for multi-modal literacy approaches, I am still looking for an  effective way to give my students more writing practice. And for lack of another term, more meta cognitive personal reflections on their development as writers.
Sometimes it seems that those who are most in favour of allowing students to always choose alternatives to formally written answers are those who are ultra-literate thinkers and writers, themselves. I disagree. I think we should be introducing our students to many modes of expression and communication, but written English should be right up there at a the top of the list.
The alternative is distasteful and patronizing, to me. It is paving the way for a class of citizens who will find certain doors closed to them: medicine and health, scientific research, law, politics, business administration, municipal planning. Real life is about more than presenting insights via multiple modes. Key fields that create, support and enhance society and quality of life involve years of study, in part in traditional modes.
So back to my goals for the coming year... I know that no matter what tools the students are using there is a real need to get them to acknowledge the editing step. So often I am just really happy to see them engaged in a project, so interested in their thoughts, happy to see them making personal progress. However, I am not recording much of this explicitly, and thus the students are not really aware either.
I am usually pleased with the amount of assessment that I end up with at the end of each term, and that it is often spanning several subject areas and genres, and showing skill development on the part of each student. But I would like to approach the teaching of writing this year with more of a plan in mind.
Or use the board idea garnered from Twitter (reference to be added later!) and put up more work from various subjects to show the students in a graphic way their progress from level to level, post more info about what work at different levels looks like, give them the chance to write often, and "allow" them to to edit and move up a level. I can use the CASI marking exemplars as well as the curriculum to draft up some posters.
I will also reinforce one of my existing approaches which is to tell them "Level 1 is not wrong. But improvements can be made." 
Another goal is to get them to edit and correct basic things on their own - and the board might just be the catalyst to move them into this new writing stage. I have found that other methods including marking, written feedback, examples, rubrics and conferences have had minimal impact.
I can also see how portfolios would be helpful, ultimately, to collect all of this material. A system of colour coding levels to show changes and improvements would also be useful.
Somehow this approach would have to encompass the blog as well, as there is a real need for the students to post more professional looking writing at this age. I hate to say it, but it might involve printing out the blog to display on the board...
A couple of factors will make this possible this year, only one English class instead of three, and the possibility of not sharing the room with multiple classes.

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