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Getting students to RESEE their writing

When students are asked to write, they often want to "get it done" and turn it in as quickly as possible.  I often ask them to look over their writing and look for places they can improve. Sometimes I even have them read each other's work and provide feedback.  Yet, even after I do these things I receive papers riddled with errors and flat out bad writing.  For years I have provided students with feedback (I try to offer as much positive feedback as I can).  I tell them, "Good verb choice. Great imagery. Fantastic argument. Wonderful hook."  However, I am frequently frustrated that  I am also continuously making comments like  "Sentence fragment.  Run-on.  Verbs aren't consistent."  You get the idea!  What's even more frustrating is that even though I make these comments telling students what they did incorrectly, the make the same errors on future assignments!

So, two weekends ago, I dedicated some time to researching add-ons available on Google.   Imagine "A Whole New World" from Alladin blasting through your computer speakers as you read the rest of this post!  One of my favorite discoveries was the SAS Writing Reviser.  Using Chromebooks. students add this extension to their accounts.  Then, they can open whatever Google Doc they want and check for sentence fragments, verb tenses, run-ons, cliches, and MORE!  For example, if they click "run-ons", it will highlight any potential run-on in the student's writing.    Yet, I knew I couldn't just tell students to use SAS Writing Reviser to improve their writing.  They were not familiar enough with the nomenclature to use it successfully.

Recently my students wrote short stories. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" was their springboard. As I read the stories, I was thrilled with their creativity but horrified at some of the grammatical issues I observed namely subject-verb agreement! I decided I would conduct a mini-lesson each day this week that addressed the major issues I saw in their stories.  My first mini-lesson was on fragments. comma splices, and run-ons, the next was on consistent verb tenses, and the last was on active and passive voice. I had them take notes on each, watch a short video, and then practice applying what they learned by playing either a Kahoot, Quizlet Live, or Quia game.  They loved it!  

Then, on the last class period of the week, they applied all of their new knowledge to the revision of their stories using the SAS Writing Reviser. It was so exciting to walk around the room and watch and assist them as they revised their work!  I required them to fill out a feedback form noting the changes they made, as well as whether or not they found the lessons and SAS tool valuable. I don't know if I have ever received such positive feedback from my students.  Not only did they feel it helped them revise their stories, but most of them plan on using it for future writing assignments in other classes! However, I do not think this would have been successful without the mini-lessons before the revision.

I am looking forward to teaching more mini-lessons and helping my students continue to develop and grow as writers!


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