Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Sticky Notes + Peer Assessment = Engagement

As a teacher of writing, I am always looking for ways to encourage students to a) get excited about writing b) develop the skills to self and peer assess.  Luckily, I am quite able to steal other people's ideas and adapt them to make them my own. Recently, I used an approach that I learned from Sheila Graham, a literacy helping teacher (recently retired) from our neighours, SD #23.  In this lesson, students are given a bare-bones paragraph, in this case based on a teacher ripping his pants in class. In small groups, students re-write the paragraph focusing on building on the "idea", adding descriptive details, developing the plot, assigning names and adding to the setting, all to create a more engaging, interesting paragraph.  As much as I might think this idea is madly exciting, this is not always so much the case for the kids. Here is where the sticky notes come in! Students are each given 5 small sticky notes (one for each group). Once the paragraphs are complete,  groups are rotated to another desk grouping, leaving their newly-written paragraph behind. Each group reads the work of each of the other groups as they rotate around the room. On the sticky notes, students are to write some form of positive "I liked the name you chose for the teacher", "Your story was funny!", "You described his pants well."  

What I noticed as students went from station to station is a) they were really engaged in the reading of each other's work  and b) they could not wait to get back to their station to read what their peers had written. 

There was some risk involved in this lesson. What if the students didn't write anything? What if they couldn't find anything positive to say? What if the group wrote something inappropriate?  None of this turned out to be problem, but these questions did cause me pause at the start. 

All in all, a worthwhile activity.  I think next time, now that students know from the start what it looks like, the engagement might be even better! 

This post is courtesy of Andrea Devito. 

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