December 16, 2023

A Less Painful Essay Writing Process: Part 3 Polishing

From start to finish, the essay writing process has become a much less painful one. I know where students will struggle and have developed supports.

As I wrote in part 1 and part 2 of this blog series on a less painful essay process, after class after class, and year after year of teaching students about text dependent analysis writing (you might call it a literary analysis essay), I feel confident in the process I have designed for myself and my students.  

I know where students will struggle and I have developed the supports that students will need to avoid or correct those struggles. From start to finish, the essay writing process has become a much less painful one.

In the first blog post in this series, I discussed the steps I follow during the pre-writing process, and in the second blog post in this series, I focused on how I guide students through the drafting process. In this final blog post in this series, I am sharing what the revision and editing process looks like for my students.

1. Color Code For Clarity

Once students have fully drafted their essays, we start the revision process with self-revision rather than peer revision. I have students color code the different parts of their essay to ensure that they have followed all of the steps for each type of paragraph as they were drafting. For example, in their body paragraphs, students might highlight their topic sentences in yellow, their introduction of evidence in orange, their text evidence in purple and their explanations of evidence in red. 

If students are struggling, I have them look at the same sample essay we referenced during the drafting process, which is now color coded in the same way students are being asked to do with their own essay. This highlighting allows students to see what they are missing and need to add. It also makes it visually clear to me who I might need to pull into a small group to work on certain parts of paragraphs. 

2. Turn On “Commenter” 

I do not let students have edit access to each other’s essays or ask them to do any editing of each other’s essays. While some of them have a strong grasp of mechanics, many of them do not, and would not be of much help to each other. Seeing all kinds of editing marks all over a paper is also discouraging, and more importantly, I want students to focus on the structure and content of their essays during the revision process, not superficial details. If an essay isn’t organized in a way that makes sense or the evidence is irrelevant, does it really matter if a student is using proper capitalization?

Instead, peers gives each other feedback based on the color coded sections of their essay. Students are provided a mix of comment banks for feedback and more open opportunities for praise or suggestions. This peer revision process allows students to receive feedback from their peers, but also allows students to see what other sixth grade level writing looks like. Because we have done so much work in small groups, I know even students who struggle with writing have essays that are worthwhile for students with more advanced writing skills to read.

3. Reinforce The Fundamentals

Don’t assume that students will do the basics of mechanics when writing their essays. I don’t even assume that they know the basics and make a point to review capitalization, punctuation, etc. right from the beginning of the year. 

Then when we write our first essay together, I can include steps on their editing checklist like make sure the start of each sentence is capitalized and there is punctuation at the end of each sentence. Also because I’ve taught it to students and I’m reminding them to check for these things as they edit, I do not spend any time making these kinds of corrections on students’ essays before or after grading. If a student has egregious issues with mechanics, I sit with them one on one to read through their essay and edit with them.

The editing checklist is also a great opportunity for me to teach or review how to use different technological tools that students can use to help themselves. I give them directions on how to use the spelling and grammar checks in Google Docs, but also how to use the “find” and “replace” tools.

The self-revision, peer revision, and editing checklist are all activities designed for students to complete independently, so that I can continue to work with small groups of students who are behind due to absences or just need a little more support with writing.

At the end of it all, grading these essays is a breeze because of the structured support and small group lessons I’ve provided students throughout the writing process, and students earn good grades on well written essays, which means everyone ends up happy.

You can find the resources I use during the essay writing process with my students here.

Missed part one or part two of this series? Go back and read them here and here.

2 yorum:

  1. Thank you for explaining each part of the process! Your blog is super helpful, and I appreciate all the time and hard work you put into it. Happy New Year! :-)