They are alstromeria, one of my favorite cut flowers. Isn't he sweet????
One week down and two weeks left for the UW-Milwaukee Writing Project. I am learning SO MUCH about new ways to teach writing. I can't wait to get back in my classroom to try them out! Again, if you get the chance to get involved with a local Writing Project chapter, I hope you will do it!
My big presentation was today. THANK YOU so much to those of you who sent words of encouragement! They really, really helped! :)
My Teacher Inquiry Workshop (TIW) was about using mentor texts to revise writing. I picked this topic because....1) I knew nothing about it; 2) I have a gazillion picture books; 3) I struggled with how to teach my students effective revision strategies, and 4) I am tired of the "one and done" mentality toward revising.
Many of us have used mentor texts in the writing classroom before, but we usually use them during the mini-lesson stage. I am suggesting (as a result of my research) that mentor texts be used in the REVISING stage instead.
Consider how many students write...
The usually skip prewriting.
They draft for several days (or sometimes a few weeks).
They correct their spelling, punctuation, capital letters, etc. (sometimes).
They copy it over neatly on new paper. ("Isn't that revision?" they ask)
They turn it in, ready for a grade.
The truth is many students (and probably some teachers) do not know how to revise. (And no, revision is NOT correcting spelling, etc. and recopying onto new paper...)
Revision is where the magic can happen in writing! It is where a majority of a students' time should be spent during the writing process.
Most of us, I imagine, currently spend the most time with our students writing during the drafting phase. We teach a mini-lesson or two, set a deadline for publication, and the kids go to it (with guidance, of course). The students write and write, sometimes for days on end.
One of the researchers I studied (Janet Angelillo) suggested that we shorten the drafting phase to just a day or two and spend a majority of our time (a week or more) revising.
This made a lot of sense to me...For many students, the simple act of putting a pencil to the paper is a huge, tiring deal. They struggle to come up with ideas or struggle with motivation. For many students, writing (the physical act) is difficult. Add to all of this, they have just learned new writing strategies in your mini-lessons that they are expected to apply to their writing. And oh yeah, it needs to all make sense...What kind of quality writing can they really produce under these conditions?
In this book, I read about looking at the draft almost as a quick write where students simply get their ideas down on paper without a lot of flourish. After they have the skeleton of their writing, they are ready to move on to where the real magic begins!
Enter the writer-in-residence, aka, the Mentor Text!
Using mentor texts during the revision stage gives students a model for what good writing looks like, encourages them to take risks with their writing, and can be highly motivating. Professional writers have been doing it forever so you know it works! They read, and read, and read, and read...trying to absorb everything they can so they can apply it to their own writing.
But in order to use a mentor text to revise writing, students need to be taught how to read like a writer. What exactly does it mean to 'read like a writer?' That's an important topic that deserves a post of its own and this post is already long enough. (Thank you for reading this far!) I hope you'll come back tomorrow to read the next part of this topic -- how to teach your students to read like a writer -- and more about mentor texts!