Our students were thrilled this year with an award nomination, and many chose to write thank you comments to our nominator. Most were thoughtful responses that conveyed their appreciation; they wrote from the heart, which gave their writing voice.
Our goal is to write our best, to learn from even our best to improve our writing choices so our ideas are clear and concise.
Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano at Langwitches invites us to evaluate our work to improve.
With that in mind, I reread several comments and wrote a sample one, a model to use with students. Using an anchor or model is a teaching strategy recommended to help improve writing. With a model comment ready, I evaluated it based on a rubric. The rubric helps us to break down our writing so we can see the parts we did well and and the parts where we can improve.
The rubric (from Langwitches)
The model comment:
Dear Mrs. Nominator,
Thank you for nominating our blog. We are very proud and exited to be nominated for an award. Our class enjoys blogging because we can share ideas with other people. For instance, we can read and share with other students in the world. We learned to take notes and stuff and we learned strategies for ideas so we can write our own blog posts. Finally, thank you again for nominating us!
Parts Done Well
Writing and Voice:
The paragraph was somewhat organized, adding voice by including feelings (very proud and excited [exited]) and details (“share ideas with other people”). The words chosen are an attempt to bring the content to life (“take notes and stuff” “can write our own blog posts”). Sentence fluency is mostly achieved (“For instance” “Finally”).
Connected to the post and added “simple” additions (“share ideas with other people” “we can read and share with other students in the world” “learned strategies for ideas” “own blog posts”), which shows the beginning evidence of knowledge/content.
Only a few spelling, sentence, and grammar errors restrict the flow of reading ( “exited” “take notes and stuff and we learned strategies”).
Therefore this comment flows between a 2 capable and 3 accomplished, which is a thoughtful response.
Parts to Improve:
To move to expert level on the rubric, the writer could:
Writing and Voice:
Write more than one paragraph which is organized into ideas, each followed by details of explanation. To add style, descriptions, imagery, or figurative language would add voice and interest. For instance — how proud were you? When I’m proud I feel light like a butterfly or warm like the sun. That would make the feeling “memorable, and bring the comment to life.”
Details were provided, and needed explanations; “stuff” could be explained with examples or experiences. For example, “take notes and summaries on our research to assist the composing of our posts” and “we learned strategies for ideas, such using our Google Docs organizer so we include details.” A link to those sample organizer, to sample notes/summaries would have added to the content, clarity, and relevant resources for the reader.
As indicated, the rubric helps us to break down our writing into parts, but good writing is not parts; it’s the meaning communicated to an audience for a purpose.
Donald Murray once said, “Writing is hard fun.” It’s hard to develop an idea thoroughly. It’s hard to add original ideas with a personal voice. It’s hard to go back and add details and voice. It’s hard to go back again and edit for spelling, grammar, and clarity. But when our writing is good— when a response is given back, that is fun, a feeling of satisfaction.
Even though students have the lessons and resources: figurative language, elaboration strategies, revision, and practice, writing is hard.
For this model, practicing the parts of writing brought it to capable and almost through accomplished on the rubric. It was written to the audience for the purpose of expressing thanks. With more practice, this will improve to expert.
To continue this “audit meme,” I tag Denise Krebs, Amy Cobb, and Tracy Watanabe to add to Silvia’s meme at Langwitches to help students and teachers improve the online blog and comment discourse. Please use models (anchors) so we can all learn and practice from them.
For our class, we’re going to set one goal each, based on a self-assessment of our work. What one “part” would you recommend writers start practicing? What part of writing is hard for you, and what strategies do you use to overcome it? How do you know you’ve improved? How would you audit a post or comment?