Tickets to Leave (exit slips, one-sentence reflections, etc.) are a staple in my classroom that I sometimes forget about. I try to use them each time we write in a new genre or attempt a new skill, but then the immediacy of everything else in my daily teaching schedule pushes them aside. Today, I reserved a five minute window at the end of each 7th grade class for in-process reflection.
The thing I love about pausing to reflect during the middle of working on a skill is that it reinforces that writing (especially developing writers' writing) is never finished. We reflect while we're still revising because otherwise young writers have a hard time understanding why revising is so important. Why should I make changes to my paper? It's done. I turned it in.
Reflecting on new skills and how they apply to recent drafts helps make the process of learning to write a little more clear.
Students wrote responses to a non-fiction article last week (shout out to Kelly Gallagher and Dave Stuart, Jr.). After tackling poetry and narratives during the early part of the year, we're ready to put some work into non-fiction reading and informational and argument writing skills and basic structures. As usual, starting something new is not easy.
I am repeating a pattern with this group of 7th graders: teach them the thing, think they know and understand the thing, read their writings and realize they don't understand the thing at all. At first it was frustrating. Now, I'm looking at it with new eyes. Constantly having to re-teach, reflect, and re-write the things means that we are turning into masters of revision, as student-writers and as teacher-planner!
Revision is the best part of writing. It's the part when a writer develops skill and pushes past "good enough" to fully realize what he or she is capable of.
My students reflected today on drafts they wrote last Friday. One week apart, and they're already looking back on their drafts with fresh eyes and are able to make more informed writing choices.
All it took to see how much my students learned in one week (with a snow day thrown in, even!):
1. An index card.
2. The direction to start their reflection with "I noticed..."
3. Their writing notebooks open to the notes from minilessons on formal essay components and their iPads open to their original drafts.
4. Five minutes to think.
Okay, maybe not everyone noticed what I was hoping for, but even noticing that you don't like writing but are still able to write more is a success in my book.
Noticing doesn't equal better drafts; the actual transfer remains to be seen. But if they can look at their writing and notice the gaps in skill, and I give them the strategies to develop and the time to work on the skills, then positive changes will happen.
I think I'll continue this seventh grade pattern for now. They might not be the best group of first-draft writers I've ever had, but they might end up the best revisors I've seen in a long time.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.