Today’s Contributor: Sarah Price
I am a sixth grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher at Barton Hills Elementary. I am excited about collaborating with fellow teachers and using technology as a tool to make student learning experiences rich, personal, and authentic. I am also passionate about using the natural environment as a tool to achieve the same goals.
Teaching writing workshop has always been a blast. It is so exciting to see kids grab inspiration from a model text, write and revise and create something more than they thought was possible. My favorite part of that process has always been writing conference. But as many writing teachers can understand, finding the time in the school day to meaningfully conference with each student and help them make decisions about how to revise their writing is a challenge. Additionally, if you choose not to conference and instead teach revisions lessons as a whole class, even if you pick lessons that you know the majority of the students can benefit from, you are still not meeting the personalized needs to each child. Nothing is worse than looking out on a classroom of students working on a revision technique and seeing faces of kids that you KNOW do not need to practice that strategy. They could, and should, be using that writing workshop lesson time in a more meaningful way.
I was hoping this was a case where technology could help individual students get what they needed and not just what most of the kids need. To address this goal, I created a BLEND revision module that used surveys, peer reviews, teacher digital conferences, and playlists of must-dos and may-dos to personalize the revision experience for students. You can see a shot of the module below:
Revision Playlist Process Steps
- Formative self-assessment. Students turned in their first draft to BLEND and then used an embedded google survey to consider their needs for revision of the piece.
- Peer Reviews. Students used a rubric I created for the assignment to complete two randomly assigned peer reviews though BLEND. Although random, they were not anonymous. Digital citizenship and authentic feedback were the focus of this activity.
- Teacher Conferences Digitally Through BLEND. Using the rubric above as well as BLEND commenting and annotation features, I was able to preserve some of the features of in-person conferences. I read the student drafts and their self-assessment. This allowed me to ask questions and suggest revision strategies that were exactly what that student needed and wanted for their own writing. Students and I always had the option to request an in-person conference. Some needed it. Some did not. Those that needed it, got what they needed.
- Must-Dos and May-Dos Based on the peer, teacher, and self-feedback, each student had a personalized playlist of revisions. For each strategy, there was a BLEND page of resources in our “Revision Toolbox,” and for many, there was an in-class minilesson as support.
- Revised Draft Submitted and Self-Reflection. Finally, the students resubmitted their work and completed another google form to reflect on what they had done. The focus here was on improvements they made, skills they learned, and what their next steps as writers might be.
This process has not been easy. There have been times when I was beset by a tech glitch (I didn’t realize Google documents were not peer editable on Canvas) or student anxiety about a new process and tech was overwhelming (even felt pecked to death in your own classroom?), and I really really wanted to abandon the whole thing. I thought longingly of my previous analog and highly successful workshop process. Personalized for the majority is good enough, right?
However, in the end, both the kids and I really felt the benefit of this process. In class, I heard conversations between kids encouraging each other to try different things on the playlists. Students loved having input in the peer review process. I loved that I could direct students back to their own self-assessment when they were looking for the next step in the process.
Check back later, but right now I am excited to leverage our success in our next round of blended personalized writing workshop.