Not long into student teaching I realized something no one had prepared me for: reading student writing is the best! Getting to know the students in general is probably the number one gift of this profession, but writing is such a special way to do so. It is time-consuming, but so informative and enjoyable, especially the writing in which they are thinking things through. It is not often that you get to peer into someone's thought process in that way (without breaking into their journal).
I have over a hundred students. Last year I had around 80 language arts students. At the beginning of last year I would bring home sets of notebooks in shifts. They were heavy and it took me hours to go through them and jot notes. Later in the year we had iPads and I had them upload images of their writing to a great app called SeeSaw. That was much faster, it was easy to leave comments and for them to write me back, and I didn't have to lug around heavy notebooks.
This year I don't have the iPads and I have over 20 more students than last year. I also have more different classes to prep and a tighter schedule (less prep time). But I don't want to rob myself of the fun and my students of the attention to their formative writing. I needed a compromise.
That compromise is the Weekly Something. The ridiculous name is a result of not being able to come up with anything I liked, calling it the Weekly Something in the meantime and then...it stuck. I liked it. It leaves room for variety and is silly enough to get kids' attention.
It serves a few purposes:
* a chance for me to read student writing in a variety of formats
* a check for understanding of various class topics
* building relationships with students through written dialogue
* encouraging students to see writing as a tool that is a practical but also a fun--something that can be used for many purposes and doesn't have to be a chore
* encouragement to be text researchers in their daily lives
* a chance for students with different strengths to show them in different ways
* a low-stakes writing activity for school that (hopefully) removes some of the fear of a blank page
So far I've had them respond to the weekly quote in our classroom and make connections to Humanities content, write me a letter with a choice of topics, record what texts they notice in their daily lives, and reflect on our Read Aloud text.
Here are two for reference. The wording isn't perfect in each section. As always, my work is a work-in-progress:
Students are working on the second one right now. There is a good rate of engagement so far and some kids are asking what the next one will be like. They still take awhile to read, but I plan to shift from grading and writing feedback on every formative activity to focusing more on these. That is the plan but maybe it will evolve.
It is important to me that my students see their thinking and writing as valuable parts of their lifelong learning and growing. My hope is that this tool will encourage students to think things out in writing, to pay attention, and to have their voices heard.