Students Need to See Writing as a Process

I just had 170 students revise a piece of writing, and none of them complained about it. Let me qualify that. None of them groaned aloud obnoxiously, as if the assignment was causing them physical pain. For the most part, they completed their second draft with ease and some even expressed a mild delight that they made their writing a little better. A few voluntarily asked me for suggestions about how to word certain phrases. A few students expressed grave concern that they had exceeded the word limit (the accidentally wrote more than they were required).

This is a dramatic contrast to how my former students used to behave when they were presented with the notion that their writing needed to be fixed. Typically, the mere suggestion that they were not yet done with a piece of writing was met with sneers of derision. I had to drag them a long through what they thought was an agonizing process of revisiting a piece of writing they believed they had completed.

Not this time. Actually, not in recent memory.

What, you may ask, has made the difference?

Continue reading “Students Need to See Writing as a Process”

Responsibility of the Learner

We need to make them take ownership of their learning

This week our conversation has centered on the phrase, “Whatever it takes–that’s the job of the teacher.” Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we read “with the grain,” accepting the text for what it said, challenging ourselves with how we can add one more thing in our pursuit to do “whatever it takes.”

Today, we read “against the grain” and challenge the idea. And I will bring into the conversation a book I have picked up for summer readingVisible Learning for Literacy.

When I first read that phrase, “Whatever it takes,” I’ll admit, I was angry. Here’s why. When I step back and look at all my commitments–full-time teaching, marriage, three kids, involvement at church, active in the community where I live–I do a lot of juggling, blending, and balancing to do get it all done. And when someone comes along and says “whatever it takes” to me, in the midst of all I do, it comes across as holier-than-thou moralizing while wagging your finger at me.

If you read the earlier posts, clearly, I got over that initial anger. But, even then, I noticed something else was bothering me. And here it is:

What about the student? Are the students doing “whatever it takes?”

I have been part of meetings where student results come back below what we were expecting, and questions were asked about what interventions we can add to help the students succeed. What else could be done? That’s a good question to ask, but how many interventions are too many? Where is the line where we can look at what the teacher did, what the student did, and say, “Yep, that teacher did everything she could and the student did not respond.”  Continue reading “Responsibility of the Learner”