Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Okay. Good. Now, look over your shoulder like you have a secret...

Unlike Zoolander, my fascination with modeling started with Donald Graves, was fomented last June by Velvet, and has most recently been reinforced by Carl Anderson and Ronald Barron.

Modeling. Modeling. Modeling.

As writing teachers (and teacher writers), it seems that this is the most important thing that we can do.
We must model the act of writing (Graves and Barron), and model reviewing one another's writing (Graves, Barron, and Anderson), and model a writer's response to these reviews (Graves, Barron, and Anderson). As Barron puts it, "Modeling of the process is essential."

Rather than revising our own work prior to sharing it, we should let students see our down-drafts. We should let them know that even grown ups -- and teachers at that! -- might have to start in the muck. In this way, we can "show" techniques as opposed to just "telling". These are all things that I know.

Furthermore, I know that I know them...which is why the next bit is frustrating for me to admit.

I do and share my own writing with students. I try to model fair and effective peer conferencing. Sometimes, on odd Friday nights, I sit down with my DVD of Donald Graves modeling the modeling process.

Yet, somehow, I'm still not convinced that my students are getting all that they can from their peer conferences. Granted, they are young (2nd grade), and the groups are not optimum size (two instead of the four suggested by Barron)

As many poses as I strike, my students still struggle with the peer conferencing piece. Fellow early primary teachers: Am I asking too much? Are you all having peer conference success? Can you be my models?


  1. When I taught second grade (and even now in fourth grade), we started with whole group sharing, modeling and practicing the skill of giving specific compliments about a piece of writing. Then we practiced asking thoughtful questions of the writer: What else would you like to know: When? Where? Who was there? I think it's wise to proceed with caution, taking baby steps toward building the skills of peer response under your watchful eye so you can guide them.

  2. I would like to say that I do conferencing...but I don't do it like Anderson says to do it. I do it my way, which is teaching the writing rather than teaching the writer. I need to switch my thinking on that. I would love to chat about what I do now, and how you and I think it could be different to be more about the kids and less about what I think they should be doing.

  3. How about asking kids to give feedback via questions? Building on Janice's comment but going one step further: instead of saying "I'm confused here," a student would ask "What are you trying to say here?" It could lead to deeper conversations about what the writer is trying to share with the reader. It could also help the writers become more aware of their audience.