Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Write in the Middle
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Write in the Middle
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Workshop 6: Responding to Writing: Teacher to Student

Key Practices To Observe in Workshop 6

This workshop demonstrates a variety of techniques for responding effectively to student writers. They include:

  • Teachers help students write for meaningful purposes, prompting students' interest in developing their writing and establishing a foundation for effective conferences. It is difficult to promote revision when students do not find the writing meaningful.
  • Though teachers respond to a particular sample of writing, the goal of the response is not merely to correct or "fix" the individual piece; the teachers focus also on strategies for writing, ways of thinking about writing that can transfer to other writing.
  • Teachers organize for response in a variety of ways: a whole-class response; a quick, over-the-shoulder comment; a one-on-one conversation guided by the student's questions and concerns; a small-group conference that focuses on the work of one student but also engages the other students; conference forms; and frequent questioning to help students think and make decisions about their work.
  • As students are getting ready to write or are just beginning to revise a draft, the teachers' response concentrates on meaning, purpose, awareness of readers, and methods of support. Mechanics are addressed later, as students edit their work. The response is focused, and teachers do not attempt to "cover" everything.
  • In their responses, teachers emphasize that students have ownership of their writing; the writer makes the decisions, even though the teacher and classmates may offer suggestions. In responding, teachers do not "take over." Teachers often ask students, "What do you think?" or "What have you decided?" Response is student-based.
  • Different kinds of response are offered: description of what is working, questions, suggestions, options, explanations of strategies, personal reactions to the work. Most often the response is oral, but teachers also write notes to the writer, list ideas or techniques on the chalkboard or a flip chart, and provide handouts, examples, and other reading materials.
  • Listening carefully and patiently to students as they talk about and read their work is important in providing response. Teachers are calm and soft-spoken in their conversations with students, which is especially important with students who are early learners of English. Response occurs in a setting described as a community of writers.
  • Though the teachers are alert to the "teachable moment," they also are purposeful in the way they arrange for response to student writers. Routines are established in the writing workshop, and teachers' practices are methodical.
  • Teachers maintain positive views of their students. They convey a trust that students can and will think, because the students are writing about matters of concern to them. Response is characterized by positive expectations and a view that writing is valuable—what students do as writers is important. The tone of the response is positive, not critical.

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