Nothing kills motivation quicker for students than having all of their errors pointed out especially if they have worked hard to accomplish an assignment. After hearing about the wonderful things a student has done, they are often ready to work on a next step or goal.
When Alejandra came to me at the start of sixth grade, her writing looked like this:
It took her one month to complete this bed-to-bed story that filled up seven pages of her rough draft booklet. A bed-to-bed story is one that tells all the events in a young child’s day or event from rising in the morning until retiring at night without regard to what might be interesting to an audience. These are often seen in very early writers but rarely in sixth-graders. Her reading level placed her in my intervention class for extra help.
Alejandra fell in love with reading and writing that year; she spent numerous hours reading and writing both in school and at home. Exactly one year later her writing looked like this:
Immediately after reading her draft in our revision group she looked up and said, “I don’t got no chapter titles yet.” Her best friend softly suggested, “Alejandra, if you write like this you may no longer talk this way. It is I don’t have any chapter titles yet, not, I don’t got.”
This 47-page draft took her the same time to write as her seven-page bed-to-bed story exactly one year earlier. Although Alejandra still needs much instruction in spelling, grammar, and syntax, I believe the growth is apparent. Two things added to this growth: reading a vast amount of self-selected novels and having strengths pointed out in her writing during all conferences with me or another student. Early in the year, I had to search hard to find positives in her pieces. Later it became hard to share all of the strengths in a timely manner.
Only after pointing out strengths in a student’s reading or writing should we move on to goals or next steps. We also must be very careful to work on one goal or area of weakness at a time. Overwhelming students with too many issues can be just as de-motivating as not noticing the positives. However, great teachers do move students forward with teaching points or goals; Alejandra took on many during our first year together.
I challenge you to see how many strengths you can notice in your students reading and writing in the next few weeks. Once again, we don’t have a moment to waste.