This week, I am going to begin Writing Circles with my 4th graders. If you are not familiar with Writing Circles, they are a lot like Literature Circles. I learned about them in the UW-M Writing Project this past summer and are the work of Dr. Jim Vopat.
1. Group: Divide your students into groups of about 4-5 students. Have each group come up with a name for their group (consider it to be something they all have in common, like my group was called "The Procrastinators" :)
2. Brainstorm: Each student is given three notecards. On each notecard, each student writes 1-2 words of a very broad topic (pets, vacation, school, family, memories, sports, etc.).
3. Collect & Distribute: One student collects all of the cards and shuffles them up. He then deals three random cards to each person in the group.
4. Discard: Each student looks at their three cards, chooses one of the three that she would most like to write about and discards the other two.
5. Rating: Students then pass their ONE card to the person on their right. This person looks at the topic and rates it by putting a small symbol in the top of the notecard. They use these symbols to rate:
* = I would be excited to write about this topic
+ = I could write about this topic
- = I am NOT interested in this topic AT ALL
Continue to pass the cards to the right and rate them until students get their original card back.
6. Choose a Topic: Based on the ratings, students choose the topic they will ALL write about. It will probably be the topic with the most stars (*).
7. Writing: Students take a designated amount of time to write about their topic. I plan to give my students the rest of the writing period and one more day to draft. Students each CHOOSE the genre they will write in, but the topic has to be the same for all group members. For example, if the topic is "Travel," students could write a poem, a narrative, a vacation review, a newspaper article, an email, etc.
8. Peer Feedback: Students then come back together as a group. They take turns reading their writing out loud to their group. However, before reading, they tell their group members exactly what kind of feedback they would like. This is very important as it really helps with the feedback process. Here are some ideas:
Connections you had
Questions that popped in your head as I read my writing
Does my word choice sound right?
What did I do well?
Suggestions for revision
9. Future Use: Students can then add this writing to their writer's notebook to use as a writing piece they will take through the entire writing process at a later time if they like it.10. Publication: After about four Writing Circles cycles, ask students to polish and submit one of their four writing pieces for assessment.
I have been excited about Writing Circles since this summer and I finally feel like my students are ready to give them a try. Can't wait!
Have you used something like Writing Circles in your classroom? Have any ideas to share? I'd love to hear them! :)
Also this week, my baby boy is turning 16!!!! How did this happen??? While I would like to stop time, I know I can't. I am so proud of the wonderful young man he has turned into.
Here he is on the day he received his Eagle Scout Award