So I’ve been working lately with a really good text written by a kid for a writing sample (data gathering) in preparation for the DPS exit post assessment in April.
I have found some productive things to do with this text beyond merely sharing it with the class before scoring it for the grade (DPS rubric score) and tossing it (I toss everything once it’s in the gradebook – we’ve talked about the need for simplicity here a lot).
All I am doing in this activity is sharing good student writing samples with the class. I put the text on the document camera and, after we do the R and D thing, instead of putting the text away, we use it a a writing prompt for the class:
The way it works is: after the R and D session, I remove the text and tell the kids to write it, with no warning. Here they were reading and discussing away, and all of a sudden they have to write the text. They instantly go from passive observor to active pencil pusher.
They write for exactly five minutes, writing anything they can remember from the text. Then I turn the camera back on and tell them to read the text again. They obviously want to fix up their writing. I let them.
Then I turn off the camera again and tell them to write the text again on the back of the paper this time. I do this as many times as the class period allows. Each time, it becomes a memory game for them.
At the end of class, their final version is handed in as an exit ticket for a ten point quiz grade. It’s so simple, all they do is embed their writing a little more each time that the camera is turned back off, adding details, cleaning up their writing with each new effort.
Here are the steps, then, for Embedded Writing:
1. Start class with the sample text, a really good one written by a superstar, on the document camera. The kids read in silence (see Reading Option A for this process).
2. We chorally translate (what Carol Gaab calls Directed Reading).
3. We discuss in the TL.
4. Do a retell , asking the students to form images of what is being said in their minds for reference later.
5. Remove text from document camera.
6. On the board, provide a list of guide words, taken from the student’s story, to help the students write what they can remember.
7. They write what they can remember for five minutes.
8. Replace text on camera.
9. They compare what they wrote with the original text, making corrections, additions, etc.
10. Remove text again.
11. They flip their papers and write it again for a ten point quiz grade as an exit ticket.
Removing and replacing the text could go a third and fourth and even fifth generation into the next day in this embedded writing action. The benefit is obvious – we get more reps on a simple text. I just keep it going for as long as I can before it runs out of steam.
This activity is similar to some of the reading activities that many of us have learned to do where we try all kinds of sneaky ways to get lots and lots of repetitions on just one reading so that the kids are not aware of it. It’s the same thing here as we try to sneakily get them to do as many layers of writing repetitions as we can.
Another benefit of this activity is that it is also obviously a great ego boost to the writer and is also a great opportunity to put up the DPS writing rubric and get them to study it and why this text is a Int. Low or Nov. High or whatever it is, so that they can self reflect on what their own writing level is and be ready and know what to expect on the April exit exam for the district.
It also humbles a few kids who thought they were great writers when they see a kick ass text written by a classmate up on the screen, especially if they are seniors and the superstar writer is a sophomore. So it’s a good motivator.
And the kids are able to see again how the standard of Communication is the point of the class, as those super unimportant little grammar points about adjective agreement and all that are ignored in favor of the ease and flow of a handsome text written to communicate is enjoyed. (That was hard to write – I have to wrestle with Grammar Man in these classes but usually do so successfully.)
Last, but not least, once the R and D is over. I get to rest my voice and just walk around and remove or replace the text from the camera – not exactly intensive labor and so this Embedded Writing idea is a kind of bail out move as well.