I love this part. Students eagerly share the details and embellish their stories for their classmates in this safe environment.
Carefully crafted questions
Then, we ask questions. All questions are not equal. When inexperienced children are left on their own, they often ask ineffective questions. They don’t know what to ask, so they fill the assigned time. Teachers are disappointed with the results. By being in the circle, I can stress our purpose, to offer quality feedback to the writer that will help improve the writing.
I am not afraid to critique the questions to push the students to improve as peer revisers.
We want to know more about or the places where we are confused. After a question, the writer underlines each sentence or section discussed and draws a question mark in the margin and adds a word or two: where? why? name?
I love this part. Students eagerly share the details and embellish their stories for their classmates in this safe environment. Friends ask questions like, “What kind of snake was it?” Then, rich detail spills out of the writer: “It was just a garden snake. But it was big and black. It stood up and hissed at us and we ran into the woods laughing because we got scared so bad.”
I enjoy looking at the student and saying, “Do you see what you just shared?” The opportunity gives me a chance to teach. “How many of you would enjoy reading those details in the story?” Again, all the hands go in the air. I challenge them further. “Why? What are good details anyway?”
Discussing these questions and observations takes root in a small group. I see the advice I give to one child transfer to the onlookers in the group as well. If my goal is to prepare them to run these groups by themselves - and it is - then I need to jump on the opportunities to name what good writing is so they know how to help one another. By mid-January, my students can run their own writing groups independently if I model this intermediary step well.
NEXT: Simple, solid suggestions