Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I got what I deserved: why revision matters

I've been feeling off my game as a teacher lately. That was made painfully obvious to me when I graded my students' recent essays and they were, quite frankly, abysmal. But they were abysmal because I failed to give them some critical scaffolding in order to help them be successful.

Not only that, but I also failed them in another way. I promised myself that I would give students feedback on a draft prior to turning in their final draft and I didn't do that with this essay. So as a result, they gave me what I deserved.

So I made sure to fix the problem. The past two days we worked on the critical piece that they missed (i.e., the piece I failed to scaffold), and I gave them time to revise their essays. As a result, both I and my students were on our game today. Kids were asking questions and there was an air of collegiality in the room. As I worked with individual students and saw that the reinforcing of what they missed the first time around was finally starting to stick, I realized, once again, how important it is that we give our students more time on a piece of writing than we think is needed. Unfortunately in the race to cover as much material as possible, what students lose out on is the opportunity to really wrestle with a piece of writing. I'm glad this assignment reminded me to slow down and take our time.

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  1. I'm curious what the piece and how you adjusted the scaffold. I feel your failure--it happens, I assign, students comply and things go awry. I love that you back up and shift gears, reteach and move forward.

    1. They wrote about what book they thought should've won the Caldecott award and in the essay they were supposed to refer to the Caldecott criteria, but I never actually went over how to do that. I just assumed that by giving them a copy of the criteria they would include it in their essay somehow.

      So I backed up and actually showed them how to incorporate it into their essays.

  2. I'm inspired by the "air of collegiality" you describe. I'm also inspired by your reflectiveness. Smart teaching to give them the chance to revise, with a change in your instruction. Very smart.

  3. I agree, your reflection is honest. I know plenty of teachers that would just scream, "They didn't get it." Instead of self-reflecting on what they could do different. Bravo to you for readjusting plans, ignoring the "coverage" and providing the students the necessary means to success and transfer! Love hearing this!

  4. I love do-overs. (We have them a lot in my house--it's a great trauma parenting technique for everyone!) How seldom we allow our students do-overs, but even more--how seldom we teachers allow ourselves do-overs. When I first started teaching, I never wanted to admit that I hadn't done something right. It took me a few years to realize the power in admitting to students when I'd gotten it wrong and telling them what I wanted to do to fix it. And you are so not alone in the feedback issue. Just a couple of weeks ago, my poor comp students had their final drafts of an essay due when I hadn't gotten their first drafts back to them. ARGH!

  5. The wrestling is a big key to writing and creating. I'm glad everyone got a chance to work on it some more.