Making Lemonade

Now is about the time of year when I give my fifth grade students an assessment on literary analysis. We have spent a fair amount of class time learning how to write proper claims and arguments, and we have also discussed the type of language that is best suited for the tone of academic writing.

These essays are part of my year-long data gathering; I use these to determine growth among my students across the year. So when I look at their work, I’m hoping to see kids using the structure and conventions I’ve taught them.

It is so very hard to be patient.

It is so very hard to look at these novice, rough-around-the-edges attempts with a generous eye.

It is so very hard to look at where the kids are now, and not be so very discouraged about how very far we must go from here. To not look at the papers and give up because it all feels like one hot mess.

I knew that if I sat down now to fill out the rubrics on their writing, it would just make me crabby. Everyone knows they don’t want a crabby teacher evaluating their work.

So, I decided to hit the brakes for a bit and get the students involved. I had them read their work aloud to themselves to get a feel for how it “sounded” to them.

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Then, I asked them to choose a recent work to compare to their beginning of the year writing, and reflect from there. The questions were:
-When you compare your work from the beginning of the year until now, what strikes you or surprises you?
-In what areas have you seen the most growth in your writing?
-Looking at the most recent essay, what areas do you see yourself needing to improve or strengthen? What skills do you need to learn?

Lo and behold, as they do just about every time, my students came through. The level of thoughtfulness and insight that the kids brought to their responses was encouraging and refreshing. Just as I had hoped, their reflections on growth reminded me that indeed, their writing has come a long way since the beginning of October. Much to my relief, many of their areas for improvement were the same as what I would have suggested.

In a busy and stressful time of year, this activity was a reminder to listen to my loveys, to allow them the opportunity to reflect, and to celebrate their growth and development.

Quite the holiday gift.

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