August 7, 2013

Writing Feedback and Record Keeping (Part 3 of updating my practice this year)

My approach to teaching writing has changed heavily, much like everything else, through my last 6 years. But, if there is one thing that I have come to fully understand about it, it's that writing has to be taught by having students write. This sounds like an overly obvious statement, but practice would suggest otherwise.

Let's start with one of the most basic tenets of teaching and student teaching: I do, we do, you do. Or, model the skill, practice with students, then they practice alone. Logically, from the outward appearance, this makes sense. That's how we teach writing in the western world as well as math. But, it doesn't work. It teaches the skills in a vacuum with no personal meaning.

If you want to get students to build a skill set, then they need to practice the skill, at first badly. But, then you give them feedback on their performance of their personal work, pushing them toward mastery of their skill, not your skill.

Baseball is a great analogy - though a physical skill, hitting a moving ball with a bat takes practice, nuance, and a lot of practice. Then, getting that ball to fly or roll as you desired takes a newer and higher skill set. Then, hitting one that is flying 50, 60, 70 miles per hour is its own test of skill. But, you have to start somewhere.


Here's the thing though, I am not working one on one with 5-10 batters, I'm trying to work one on one with, last year, 37 students in one class. It takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of record keeping.

Here's the plan -

I use a great online LMS system named Schoology. One of their newer features is the ability to track changes in submissions. I have to strive to look at a student's writing ONLY once they have submitted a new version to Schoology so I can keep track of their progress in writing that assignment.

Then, as their writing is turned in from 1st draft through 10th(?) I can update their grade on the assignment accordingly.

So, here's my questions - Does this approach seem realistic? I'm not sure if I will be able to keep myself on track for all of those updates. Also, does that put the student in a more negative point based situation as opposed to writing and editing to learn how to write and edit better?

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