This post is focused on three of the Seven Elements of a Differentiated Writing Lesson from my Teacher Workshop: Teaching Authentic Revision Skills, Focusing on Writing Skills (more than focusing on the end product), and Discussing Writing Samples at the Analysis and Evaluation Level.

The new Post-its are up!  Here's one of them!

In 2005, we created our first set of response/revision Post-its for the WritingFix website.  These tiny notes, when given to students, had them analyze five different skills from one of the writing traits, and they could actually be printed on Post-it notes (an optional extra step), if you fed them through your feeder tray a second time.  Instructions for printing them on actual Post-it Notes.

During response group time, these Post-it notes can serve as miniature "scripts," containing language we wanted our students to use when they looked at their own and each other's writing.  We explicitly taught our students to rank the skills (not rate them), because we wanted to truly push them to the analyze and evaluate level of Blooms.  When ranking the five skills, a student has to decide which skill stood out the strongest (and give it a five), which was next strongest (and give it a four), next strongest (give it a three), etc.  To rate, a student could give all the skills the same score, which they often did to be lazy.  Ranking was harder to teach the students, but it proved such a worthwhile extra step because--to do it well--they had to re-read the draft several times and really focus on a specific trait's skills. 

With the skills ranked by each reader on a Post-it, student response groups then discuss their rankings with each other, especially in areas where the scores differed.  After a thorough group discussion, the writer of the draft usually has a pretty good sense of which skills stood out not quite as strong as others, and with that knowledge, a revision plan can be made for the paper. 

The original Post-it Notes at WritingFix have been tweaked over the years, and these new, revised Post-its reflect some of the best slight changes we have made and recorded.  In addition to revising the popular 6-trait Post-its, I have also added some new genre-specific Post-its, which I have been personally using (and loving) since October in my workshops.

I meet a lot of teachers who use the Post-its, but they allow their students to rate the skills, instead of rank them.  Here is a challenge to start forcing them to rank because it's a more sophisticated way to think about writing skills.  Students would prefer to rate, so I no longer allow them to do that!

And for those of you who've never used the Post-it Notes at all, here is a challenge to start.  Remember, you need to model their use, you need to supervise their use in the beginning, and you need to practice using them on writing they don't have a connection to. 

As far as tools that force your students to start using the academic language of writing, I've never come across anything better than these Post-its.  Click here to visit WritingFix's Post-it Resource Page and to access all the online versions.


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