Yesterday the students (at least most of them) handed in a second draft based on their peer editing sessions. I read them all last night so I could provide one on one feedback to the students. This is a hard thing to do with every paper in every class because of the time commitment (particularly if you get 40 papers at once!), but I try to do it at least once with all my students in the first third of the year to to give them some individual points of emphasis for writing during the year, and also to open the door for them to ask for assistance in the future (many simply are nervous to do that until they have the conversation with me and realize it doesn't hurt--and can actually be beneficial!).
Because the genres of writing required for AP are slightly different than ones students have experienced in the past, and because this happens to be a small class, I am trying to meet with the students for each major paper they write, at least for the first half of the year. Since this is the first time I'm teaching these genres in an AP class, this also gives me a chance to analyze how students are responding to the lessons I'm teaching, and where there are gaps I have to fill (this lesson is an example of going back to fill those gaps for the last writing unit).
Each student has their unique elements to work on, but generally, because this is the first such essay, I will focus on organization and development of their central idea for the synthesis, and making sure they are utilizing their resources and "entering a conversation," rather than writing an argument where the evidence is largely anecdotal. Additionally, I will note a persistent syntactical move that could be improved (I don't want to note too much, or it becomes counter productive), hearkening back to Sin and Syntax, the book they read over the summer on the function of words and syntax (though the general statement I give most of them is in their final edit, get rid of about 10% of their words for more precise writing, and show them an example on their own paper where they can get rid of two or three words in a sentence and say the same thing).
I've included a couple samples of their drafts here--in both cases, the main issue is that the students have some trouble focusing on one specific central idea, they skip around a bit too much, responding to resources individually rather than having a clear central idea that all of the resources speak to (here is a link to an AP synthesis question). The Sythesis draft sample 2.docx is the one that told me I have to review the model again, since she is by far the best writer in the class (and probably in the 11th grade class). It isn't bad by any means, but not as focused as it should be for the genre of writing.
As for process, I will have students read a piece by Debora Tannen called "But What Do You Mean?" that compares how men and women talk to each other, particularly in the work place. The copy I have is anthologized in 40 Model Essays (Aaron, Jane E., ed.) and has a series of questions regarding rhetorical strategies and effects. Because this group of students stays focused for the most part, I will let them work in pairs after they've read the piece and discuss the questions, with particular emphasis on the rhetorical effect of the organization (it is in sections based on classification of types of conversation), their response to her assertions, and Tannen's use of evidence. As students are doing this, I will call students over to my desk and talk with them for about five minutes each (we have our ELO block later in the day, which is a 40 minute block of time for students to meet with teachers, among other things, so I can meet with some then if I don't get to everyone).
Next Steps: Students will write their final drafts, and we will process the Tannen piece tomorrow.