So I was looking over my students' Human Body Research Papers in preparation for report cards, and I noticed that some students have been forgetting some of the writing requirements that we had for this assignment. We've been writing these research papers for almost two months now (as we learn about each system of the human body), so it's not a huge surprise that they would start forgetting all the small details.
What I decided to do, though, was to partner my students together and have them peer revise each others' essays. Of course, when I was a kid, that didn't go very well and that thought immediately crossed my mind. Some kids just used that time to chat, while others read each others' stories, but said they were great as they were even though there were tons of mistakes. I wanted to make sure this was different. I drew on some of the energy from our "Quality Boosters" lesson to try to make sure that my students would take it seriously, while also being confident and helpful.
Here's how I did it:
Here's what that all looked like using sticks (the names have been randomized):
After I partnered everyone up, I gave some directions about what I wanted them each to do while revising their partner's writing, and how I wanted them to do it (read each others' writing out loud, etc.). I set a timer for 20 minutes and said we would switch to the other partner's writing when the timer went off. I then walked around and checked that students were following directions properly (one group wasn't, so that was important).
I observed each partnership reading and giving suggestions, making corrections, and improving word choice. Since each partnership was asked to start with the most recently completed essay and then work backwards, my students were working with their best piece of writing (theoretically, since they should be learning from each prior piece), and had plenty of essays they could work with in case they finished early.
Once it was time to switch to the other partner's writing, I shared how I just managed to publish my first book despite the fact that my high school English teacher called me "the worst writer he had ever had!" It just shows that you can accomplish great things if you work hard and have a great team around you (my editor & publisher for me, and their partner for them).
I told them all to revise confidently with their partner no matter if they feel they are the weaker writer. Everyone has something valuable they can contribute, and no one should feel that they are not a good enough writer to help out one of our peers!
I asked them all to take a stretch break and then get back to work! It was important that we made sure that each partner got equal time and effort in revising their story!
When the period was over, my students were drained, but their writing was drastically improved! Although it was now a collaborative effort, it became a new opportunity for my students to learn. I may struggle to identify exactly what each student did on their own, but that shouldn't be what matters most. I'd rather know that each of my students are going on to middle school more confident writers because they got the attention they needed and their questions answered. I can't always provide that for each of my students as often as they need it, but when we work collaboratively, many of my students' needs get met! The power of collaboration!
The comments section below contain my students' thoughts on the activity. These are the reflection questions they were asked to answer:
I only gave them 5 minutes to answer, because another class needed the computers, but you get the idea from their answers...
What parent wouldn't want to know what their child did in school each and every day when their child comes home from school excited and motivated to learn? When your students are Learning Like PIRATE's, they're bound to be excited about something happening in school!
Even when children are passionate and enthusiastic about what they're learning in class, they're still bound to suffer from "After-School Amnesia." They never seem to remember what they did in school, because they're hungry, tired, and needing some time to unwind. That's where our Daily Photo Journal comes into play.
Throughout each school day, my students and I grab the classroom camera and take pictures of all of our learning experiences. At the end of the day, one student is in charge of uploading the photos to our classroom website and giving each slideshow a title. Now, even when a child "forgets" what (s)he did in school that day, parents can check the website and ask specific questions about what they see!
Throughout the school year, students often use our Daily Photo Journal to grab photos to put into their blog entries or print out for projects. This saves us some time because it means that students don't always have to individually take photos during activities and upload them in class. Instead, we can all use the same photos in our blog entries, with just one student taking the time to upload and post the photos online.
As an added bonus, these photos are a valuable resource that we can use at the end of the year. I've used the Daily Photo Journal as a reflection tool for students to use to think about what they learned over the school year and to create blog entries about our experiences. Parents and students have both commented that the Daily Photo Journal is a lot like a yearbook just for our class! I've had parents grab the photos of their child from the whole school year and print them off or put them into electronic photo albums!
I have chosen to use Weebly to host my photo slideshows, but there are dozens of ways that you can do this differently! I can imagine that some teachers may prefer to post their photos on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, while some may prefer to post photos on a site like Snapfish or Shutterfly. Whatever you choose, parents and students alike are sure to appreciate the year-long cache of photos showing all of the exciting activities that you completed throughout the year.