Friday, March 5, 2010

10 or 20 Years Ago

Upon seeing the 1991 publication date on the Barron article, one of my first questions was, Is he still doing Peer-Response Groups? The article, like the Zimmet and Anderson pieces, date from at least 10 years ago, before NCLB, before the dominant mantra of data-driven instruction meant constant standardized testing. I certainly hope Mr. Barron is still teaching with his purposeful and level-headed attitude.

Barron channels Donald Murray when he says, "For the modeling to be effective, teachers must be willing to let students respond to early drafts of their own writing" (emphasis added). We as teachers must share our own work as well as student samples. Doing so encourages risk-taking and builds trust. Barron also suggests using high-quality student work as samples--the '4's we talked about last week. The assumption is the students will be working with drafts that can grow into 3's and 4's, A's or Excellents.

One of the practical suggestions which Barron makes is how to set up groups, with the acknowledgement that they might not always work. It sounds like he has worked in the real world, which gives his approach credibility.

But mostly, I liked his focus on teaching the writer, not grading the writing. As he writes on page 34, "One of the purposes of a composition course should be to make students more confident and more independent writers." Anderson (p. 18) asks, "What can I teach students about the writing work they are doing that will help them become better writers?" Whereas Anderson focuses on teacher-student conversations, Barron uses the resources of the student's peers as well to answer these important questions.

1 comment:

  1. This is what I need to remember every day: "One of the purposes of (school) should be to make students more confident and more independent writers", readers, thinkers, scientists, historians, mathematicians, citizens... I love it. As we approach the MCAs, I need to be reminded that, while we can help our students practice test-taking skills, our overall goals are much bigger than passing the high-stakes standardized multiple choice tests.