Monday, 8 April 2019

Show … Don’t Just Tell

In a recent planning conversation, my colleague – a Grade 7/8 teacher with an incredibly diverse class – said that one of her goals was for her students to understand that writers use feedback to improve their writing, that they care so much about communicating their message they are prepared to make big changes to get it right. And on the flipside, writers also know the value of quality feedback and strive to improve their ability to both give and receive it. Armed with a list of what we wanted to see and hear as the student writers gave and received feedback, we planned a mini-lesson in which we would model a conference between two writers.

 We set the context for our lesson by telling the students we were going to model a conference between two writers, one of whom would be sharing her work in progress, and the other who would respond and give feedback. We then asked students to notice what we said and did that showed we knew how to give and receive feedback.

Just as we had earlier in the process when modelling how a memoirist narrows and focuses her topic, we modelled in three distinct chunks, pausing after every three to five minutes and posing our question:

What did you notice us do or hear us say that tells you we know how to give and receive feedback?

And students, as they always do, noticed much more than we had originally set out to show them.

The reader and the writer are equal. One does not have power over the other.

You begin by responding to the message.

You use your body to show you are listening.

You think about what the other writer says and don’t just say, “I like it the way it is.

You make some changes right away and others you think about.

 We added the sentence strips to our existing criteria as a new category and followed up the next day with time for students to practice. During practice time the teacher and I circulated, noting observations and conversations that provided evidence students were giving thoughtful, precise feedback based on our co-constructed criteria for writing memoir and for giving feedback. Those receiving the feedback sat with pencils poised, prepared to actually take in the feedback and use it to refine their message so that it said what they wanted it to say and had the desired effect on the reader. Later, reading the newly revised drafts, we saw evidence of rethinking, new word choices, additions, and deletions. In other words, we saw the work of writers in the real world – not students simply going through the steps. As we held the mirror up to our own practice and reflected on lessons learned, an expanded view and appreciation for modelling was our most profound takeaway. Modelling is more than something you do once at the beginning of a new unit of study.

What do your students need to see modelled so that they really understand the “why” of it and how it might move them forward as learners?