Saturday, November 7, 2009

Chapter 6: Responding to Student Work

The Politics of Correction: Learning From Student Work

Once students begin-error by error- to understand how to "clean up" their writing, they gain confidence in their ability. They no longer feel like targets in the cross-hairs of the teacher's red pen; they don't need to "wash history from their throats" as poet Patricia Smith so passionately writes in her essay "Talkin' Wrong." Teachers exercise enormous power when we take our pens to student papers. Will we use our power to help students understand that Standard English is one dialect among many or will we use it to whittle away students' voices and home language one error at a time? (page 268)

Link to NWP article written by Linda Christensen on Responding to Student Work (Includes student examples seen on page 269-270 in book)

Please add your comments on how this is working out in your classroom to this post.

1 comment:

  1. MAGIC HEADPHONES: Where I teach, 90% of the students have computers, so their drafts are a lot easier to revise. I can tell immediately whether they used spell check, and I want them habituated to that. I tell them how I get dinged in my MFA on-line class if I don't spellcheck even casual responses to postings. We have tools; use them, accuracy is important blah blah.
    Another step, though, for hand written writing also, is using Magic Headphones.I learned this from Liz Goldman (SDAWP) years ago, and it's one of my top five tools:
    The writer puts their fingers in the ears and reads their text sotto voce, softly but with their vocal cords vibrating (I literally check them and feel their throats.) The inclination is to skim with our eyes, or move lips, and that doesn't work. When done correctly, the text is processed three ways: visually and aurally through both ears and cheekbones. They will catch 60-80% of their errors, but they'll also notice usage, word choice, opportunities to revise for punctuation, phrasing coherence and text features. They read at the word level, but also on the semantic and full-text level.
    I don't accept writing, in later stages of drafts, unless and until they've done this. There's a lot of learned helplessness floating around in middle school, and I want them to take responsibility (and empower them) for accuracy and evidence of learning.
    For on-demand situations, I cue them at 10 or 15 minutes toward the end, to remind them to "take out their tools." It can be the difference they need. When they tun in work, just a glance at the first paragraph informs me whether they've used Headphone and/or spellcheck, and I just give it back. I want to know what they truly struggle with so I can be a better teacher; sloppy drafts give a false impression of what they know and can truly do. So it's a climate of honor and responsibility that we work on collectively.