This post is focused on one of The Seven Elements of a Differentiated Writing Lesson from my workshop on that topic: Discussing Writing Samples at the Analysis and Evaluation Level

I worked with the whole staff at one of my focus schools yesterday.  Back in November, each grade level had chosen and collaboratively been adapting lessons from WritingFix.  They had arrived at a place where most of them had published student samples from that collaboration.

I designed a guided meeting for them to discuss some of my preferred techniques for prompting students to discuss other students' writing samples.  Here is the packet we used yesterday during this meeting.

Now my personal goal, when having students discuss a student model as part of the writing process, is to have the students attempt to use the higher verbs from Bloom's taxonomy; in particular, analyze and evaluate

When you read like a reader, you read to comprehend and to hopefully enjoy the text.  When you read like a writer, which is what I strive to help my students do, you are analyzing and evaluating the writing skills an author has used.  By thinking about writing skills at a deep level of Bloom's, you are helping students to understand those skills enough to try them in their own drafts or revisions.

So...back to my packet from yesterday; it has four pages, and below I'll explain what we did with each page:

  1. First, we read Jack and Megan's first grade samples from WritingFix's Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs lesson.  I asked the grade level teachers make lists, in student-friendly terms, of organization and word choice skills that students could refer to so that they could determine which trait skills the writers did their best work with (as the discussion prompt at the top of the page asks them to do.) 
  2. Next, we read fourth-grader Beau's narrative practice prompt, "The Hike."  This particular sample is one of the sparkling examples of on-demand prompt writing we feature at WritingFix's Nevada Writing Test Homepage.  Each of our posted "Sparklers" comes with an interactive task (at the bottom) that requires the students to analyze the writer's skills and think how they might apply that skill to their own practice prompt writing.  With Beau's example, I particularly like how the students are asked to compare one part of Beau's writing to another part.  In order to analyze or evaluate, it's often necessary to have two samples; in this case, one sample will do if you have the students make a comparison inside a single essay or piece of writing.  Pretty smart, right?
  3. After Beau's sample, we looked over Justin and Joshua's short pieces of finalized writing; both are inspired by WritingFix's Caves lesson, which is one of my own original lessons!  I observed a teacher do a whole-class Venn diagram when having her students analyze two student samples a while back, and I thought it was a brilliant strategy.  I replicated her idea in the middle of the Justin/Joshua handout, and I had the teachers actually go through the process with their grade levels yesterday.  The discussions I overhear while they complete the Venn are always full of trait language and completely at the analysis level.  Comparing & contrasting is a marvelous way to strengthen your intended Bloom's verb.
  4. Finally, we looked at three high school samples, which are also based on the Caves lesson.  When you have three quality samples to discuss, you can create a discussion prompt using one of my own inventions: The Olympic Committee Task. It's explained in detail at the bottom of my handout's fourth page, so I won't rehash what it says here in the post.  After Olympic Committee-ing the three high schoolers, we returned to Jack and Megan's samples on the first page, and I asked, "How might you adapt the Olympic Committee Task to work with these two much younger writers?"
Our guided meeting ended with me asking the teachers to save enough student samples to create interesting discussion prompts to use in the future.



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