Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pointing Out the Positive

your peppy pal, Suzanne

Top 5 Ways You Can Tell Testing Season is Upon Us: 
(in no particular order)
1.  Your tone can best be described as rapid-fire.
2.  There is an inverse relationship between teacher stress and student motivation.
3.  Your directions include threats/promises (i.e. You don't want to know what will happen to you if you do not plan before starting your draft.)
4.  Stacks of paper are sprouting new stacks.
5.  Your resting face screams, "Try me!"


Please tell me I'm not alone!  The pressure is real.  Tensions are high.  Negativity abounds.  BUT this is not what's best for anyone- yourself included!  

Before our December retest, one of the most empowering activities we did was go through the scoring rubric and write in the strategies we had to get those points.  I want students to see that they've been presented with good stuff all year.  Imagine that!  They've got what it takes to write a good essay.  

Another way to allow students to see how their strategies are good writing is with the Praise Paragraph.  As a class, discuss what makes for good writing (pitchforks, complex sentences, upgraded word choice...).  This also serves as a great review of writing strategies and grammar rules.  You can make a list as a class or have one ready made.  I do think it's important that the list be something they can refer back to throughout the activity.  
This is a word cloud I made for my class.
After students have kerneled an essay, I have them draft half of their essay in our fancy Praise Paragraph frame.  Just kidding.  It's ridiculously simple, but I'm all about saving you a step.  You can download your own copy here.  

For aesthetic value, I have students grab a colored marker.  In groups, have students trade papers.  Give them 2-3 minutes to read the paragraph and find one good thing to point out.  I emphasize that it must be something specific and written in a complete sentence. (My idealistic teacher example: I like how you used two commas to separate the unnecessary details in this sentence.  Cute, right?!)  You can play with your own rules.  Students can complete as many rotations as you have time for.  I also think there is much power in having students point out the positive in their own writing.  

Again, all of this is to show that students have what it takes to write an excellent essay. The techniques they've been shown in class are signs of effective writing.  They should use them well and often.  It also makes you feel good to recommit to pointing out the positive in student writing.

Put a little pep in your plan!

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