It can look like a hodgepodge of ideas, but with direction writing improves.
NOTE: Find a way to put written work up front so all can read along. (In the olden days, I made a transparency and used the overhead. 🙂 )
To begin, I wrote my own piece and put it up– no editing, some proofing. I casually asked the class to read it.
Then I read it to them and laughed at some of my mistakes. (This was to encourage them not to turn mistakes into ‘I can’t write.’)
I then stated that this piece needed some work, and I was going to critique it.
(NOTE: A critique is different from criticism. The purpose of a critique is to discern what is good and why; and what could be improved and why. Criticism, however, does not tend to focus on improvement and can leave a person feeling helpless.)
First, I posted a list of sentence stems that pointed toward compliments. After reading them aloud, I used them to talk about my piece.
POST HOW TO COMPLIMENT
“The topic was worth reading because…”
“The title fit the piece because….”
“The beginning was clear/good because….”
“This (phrase, sentence, word) was good because…”
“The ending was clear/good because…”
Next, these sentence stems were posted, read aloud and applied to my writing.
POST HOW TO IMPROVE
“The topic needed to be…. (clearer, more interesting, more focused) …because…
“The title didn’t fit the piece because…” “I think that this title is better…”
“The beginning would be better if…. because…”
“If you add this (word, phrase, sentence) it will be better/more interesting because…)
“The ending would be better if…. because….”
At this point, I rewrote my piece with everyone watching and my talking my way through the update. (Students did not do this when they had their turns.)
After the next class writing activity, I asked if anyone wanted to critique their own paper. As a guideline, only three compliments and one improvement was allowed. (This was to encourage their willingness to share.)
As their comfort level increased, they were allowed to critique each other’s writing pieces. But only if! the student who wrote the piece, asked for class input.
VIGNETTE. Elise’s work was short and plain. As she listened to the other students’ critiques, I noticed that her writing was improving. One day, she excitedly raised her hand and volunteered her paper. She said, “I want to hear what is good about my paper, and get some help to make it better.”
Elise, you made my day!