Lifting the writer and not the writing is something I have been working very hard on this year as a writing teacher to 5th graders. I am fortunate that I get to teach writing to all four sections for t is my favorite subject to teach! In past years I have tried to help the student improve on the entire piece at one time and year after year, I have failed. So this year, I decided I was going to work on lifting the writer, not the writing.
One way I have found success in this is focusing on one aspect of the writing I want the students to improve on. This way it doesn't seem so daunting. For a recent compare and contrast essay on two characters from a book we read, I noticed my students were really struggling with the transition from the hook to the background information. And it really depended on what hook they were using. Some transitioned better than others. To help these students I strategically placed them in groups of three, depending on what type of hook they wrote. Their job as a group was to read their first three sentences to the group. Next, they had to read the comments I wrote in google docs to the group as well. Then, as a whole group, they had to figure out a way to make the writing flow.
One of the reasons I did it this way is because I really had no idea how to help them. I called a writing teacher friend of mine for help. Her suggestion was what I was thinking all along; I was just going to let the students try to figure this out.
And you know what? They did. I loved listening to all the discussions happening and ideas being thrown about. Some students completely changed their hook to help with the flow while others sought out the advice of their peers. It was one of those powerful moments in the classroom.
I did something very similar a few weeks back for the hairror (horror story about hair) narratives we wrote in class. For the group revision time known as PQS (Praise, Question, Suggestion), the students were to find one area of focus in their writing they wanted to improve on and fill it out on the PQS sheet. Then, one student at a time read their story to the group while the others listened intently. After that, the listeners filled out the form praising one thing the speaker did well, one question they had about the writing, and a suggestion in regards to the area of focus. In groups, they discussed this and received feedback from other students. After all students took turns, they went back to their stories and revised them based on the feedback that was received.
Of course I modeled this first. The only difference is I had 90 students offering me suggestions about my hairror story called The Ringlet not three. It took a while for me to go through them and revise my story, but my writing is better because of it.
After all we lift the writer, not the writing.
One of 90 PQS forms from my students in regards to my writing