Small Group Writing Guidance
When I am the teacher-artist, I consider the personalities and work ethic of students. If there are chatty students or students who are going to end up in a conflict, I cannot put them in the same group because of the nature of not being able to facilitate all of the students at once. In this instance, it is more important to create groupings that promote a harmonious learning environment. There are times when I form groups based on pre assessment or skill deficits. When the instructional focus is writing or the writing process, I found that grouping students with the same instructional need for that particular set of writing prompts has produced the most gains. These homogeneous groups allow students to practice a skill with their peers and for the small group instruction to be more targeted and specific to the needs of the learners. There may be a group of students who are struggling with the thesis statement for a particular prompt or may have difficultly connecting the content to writing process. These students would be placed in the same group.
Initially, the writing product was the major focus in my classroom. I noticed the products overall were not meeting grade level standards. Therefore the focus shifted to the writing process and doing each part of the process well. Giving students the opportunity to choose not only the place but also the pace at which they complete a prompt significantly changed the learning outcomes and products. A self-paced writing prompts give students the option to choose the order in which they will complete the writing prompts assigned for a unit of study. Making the writing prompts self-paced also gives students the freedom and latitude to simultaneously grapple with content and the writing process to produce a quality product.
In my blended and personalized classroom, I rely heavily on software and digital platforms to guide and supplement my instruction. At the same time, I believe that my students still need to practice traditional paper and pencil skills. Graphic organizers have long been used to help students organize content. In my classroom they are primarily used as a pre-writing tool. The mix of using the digital platforms and paper-pencil gives my students the opportunity to practice both skills simultaneously.
I frequently have my students play games as part of their learning sessions. Many students only want to play the games and do not think of creating a written records of the problems they are solving or notes on their learning. I ask my students to "split the difference" and go 50/50 on playing and note-taking. It's kind of a misnomer since there really is no "difference" to split, but the strategy makes it clear that my students should be splitting their time equally between playing a game and taking notes during that game.