Students are most successful when they get frequent and constructive feedback on the process of writing. Although, it would be great to get around to every student, everyday, and mentor them individually, there just isn't enougth time. However, if a student writer has a peer that they can check in with everyday, they are more likely to stay engaged and even look forward to trying out the new skills that are taught. This is what I hope is achieved through writing partnerships.
In this lesson, students choose their writing partners for this unit. Their partnerships may change for the next unit. It's important to have someone that they can share their writing with and discuss thoughts about revising and editing. Writing partners can help students think about what is going well in their writing and where they might want to make improvements. Writing partners can also just be an ear for them to share and try something out as their considering whether or not it will be an effective strategy for a reader.
Before we begin working with a partner, we'll define the expectations for working together.
I explain to students that they will be sharing their writing and ideas with a partner in class. I ask them to think about how they would like that experience to be? What do we need to do when we are working with a partner?
A list of their ideas is created on a chart paper that shows what our class and their partnerships will sound like and look like when they are working well with a partner.
Students share ideas and I write them in a positive way. For example, if someone says,
"We should not say, 'That's boring.'," then I solicit from the group the positive way to write that, such as, "We should give respectful and helpful feedback." This is an important way to provide students with what they should be doing rather than what they should not be doing.
In order for students to practice these new skills, I give them some time to talk with their partners. They can share a story that they are considering writing while the other one listens and provide a positive comment. Then they can switch.
When students have finished sharing, I ask them to indicate with a thumbs up, sideways, or down on how well they think they did as a partner in meeting our class expectations.
I tell them that we won't work with a partner every day but when we do, we want to treat our partner with respect and provide support when they need it.