A Powerful Lesson: My Students Critique MY Writing
It has been a lifelong dream of mine to publish a book for children.
Hoping to hone my craft of storytelling, I recently signed up for a children's writing class.
My first assignment was to write a 500 - 750 word story based on one of three pictures. I wrote and wrote -- and rewrote and rewrote -- my story.
Finally, I had a finished product that satisfied me, but fell short of thrilling me. I wasn't sure exactly what about the story didn't sit right with me, but I knew there was something.
Lucky for me, I teach a room full of ideal readers (10 year olds) that could help me out by reading my story and giving me their feedback. Problem solved!
In our classroom, we provide writing feedback using the TAG method:
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When a student finishes a piece of writing, they find someone to "TAG" it.
I have seen TAGging work wonders for my student writers. Not only have they learned how to give positive and effective feedback from a reader's perspective (recognizing that "it was good" and "I like it" are not helpful), they have learned how to listen and accept ideas and ask clarifying questions that help with revision. It's a great model for writing feedback.
After finishing my story, I decided to ask my 20 students to TAG my writing, hoping that they could help me figure out what was missing.
It was the best move I could have made.
My students worked in partners to pour over my writing. They knew how important this was to me and asking them to participate in making it a successful experience was a job they took very seriously.
As they reviewed my writing, they recorded their thoughts on a TAG sheet:
After about 20 minutes, I called the group back together to give me their feedback. They noticed some writing moves in my piece such as using the Power of Three and places where I practiced "Show, Don't Tell." They commented on figurative language and some places where they were having trouble visualizing the action. A pair of students pointed out that the names of my characters were too similar (both started with the letter M) and it was difficult to keep them straight.
The questions they asked and suggestions they made were both thoughtful and constructive. With their help, I realized what it was that didn't quite sit right with me and made a plan to fix it in revision.
Sharing my writing and asking my students for help did more than just help me improve my writing.
It showed me what my students had learned about what makes good writing.
And maybe most importantly, it empowered my students.
It was a win-win for all of us.