Randon and I met today going over the intro paragraphs the freshmen submitted for their position paper project. I took the weekend to write my comments and then Randon spent Monday night adding his comments to the papers as well. MR had suggested we look at absence and presence as the point for our discussion. We started looking at each paper one by one and after the first five noticed that we were commenting on the same things. Randon indicated he didn’t want to repeat my comments so he didn’t repeat what I had already written. As far as analysis, that made it more difficult to determine reliability since his comments weren’t on the paper but instead indicated orally to me. This is one thing we are going to change for the next time we go through this process. I also recorded our session using my iPod so that we can review our process later on and see what changes we have made or growth we have had over the course of peer grading these papers.
We agreed that all the students need to work on eliminating personal words and contractions in their essays that their proofreading for these features needs to greatly increase. We also pinpointed some students who need extra attention with their thesis statements before they move on. We discussed a course of action for these struggling students in that I would take them aside separately and almost conduct a writer’s workshop of sorts in order to help the student along individually.
We aren’t sure at this point why some of the students are still struggling with their thesis statements and intro paragraphs. We both commented that the form of intervention above might be the best to assist these students as well. Most of the kids who are struggling seem to be the ones who are completing only some work in class, are not following the structure of the paragraphs, and really need some one on one attention. This is going to be the intervention strategy we are going to explore and see if it makes a difference.
We are also wondering why so many kids are not completing their work. Why are we not receiving thesis statements, intro paragraphs and now first body paragraphs? These are conversations I think we need to have individually with the students emphasizing the work of a differentiated classroom. We even noticed going through our comments together that we are differentiating comments for each student. Some students who struggle more in writing receive more feedback and direction than students who are getting the concepts and formats. So not only is our classroom a differentiated learning environment but our feedback reflects that as well. We are going to make sure we are meeting all kids needs by giving them more in class time to work and to meet with us individually to hopefully see greater growth in their writing and work completion.
I wonder what will make the greater difference in their success: more class time to work or individualized time with teacher (Ruggles or Smith) or even dual feedback on assignments?
Specifically looking at our feedback we noticed that we had a lot of common aspects such as citation of sources, structure of writing, and personal words and contractions. The areas we differed were how we went about conveying other aspects. I typically write my comments into the margins of their essays offering constructive criticism and some praise. Randon writes a direct note to the writer offering praise, suggestions for improvement and a positive message of encouragement on most of his responses. He does this all in a paragraph format at the end of the essay.
What was really interesting is the lack of praise I gave in my responses to Randon’s praise of almost everything. This lead to a good conversation about accurate praise versus false praise making sure we are encouraging but no giving false hopes. I wonder if I am becoming to direct rather than focusing on some good aspects of the writing. Often times, I find it challenging on the first go around of editing papers to give a lot of praise and work towards that with each revision.
We concluded that the best thing Randon can do is to find a system of giving feedback that works really well for him. We both agreed that we really need to keep up with the differentiated instruction as well as that carrying over into the feedback. Every kid needs different forms of feedback to assist them in their learning. Going forward, we are going to use a differentiated instruction method where I pull out kids into the hallway and work specifically with each one on areas they are struggling with. Randon will remain in the classroom to work with the entire class. Then on days where they are doing peer editing Randon will work specifically with kids one on one and I will be roaming the room.
For our next round in this cycle, we are going to work on having 2 sets of the papers turned into us. We will each grade our sets and then compare the results. We are also going to ask the kids to take the intro paragraphs we went over today and add their comments and feedback to those so that they can see what they need to do to improve. I am going to save these sets of papers to reflect on with Randon.
Overall, I think it was a really interesting round of learning about each other. Randon and I had a good conversation about feedback, quality and quantity of feedback, what is important about feedback as well as what are differences are in giving feedback. I think we both walked away from the conversation excited about where we are taking this cycle. We are both in this together and it feels like this time we are both vested in seeing the students succeed. I think that Randon is directly involved in this cycle versus inheriting the other cycles is making the difference. I will be anxious to see and read his reflections on our conversations.