Writing with Colors: Using Highlighters to Edit the Rough Drafts

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SWBAT develop and strengthen writing as needed by revising or trying a new approach by highlighting our work and revising based on what we notice in the colors.

Big Idea

Writing with Colors "highlights" the strengths and weaknesses in the rough draft.

Getting Started

5 minutes

Students are coming to class today with three paragraphs of a five paragraph essay.I know, I know, not another five paragraph essay. But as far as I'm concerned, you can't break rules in writing, until you have proven your qualifications. The five paragraph essay is a stepping stone to mature writing. Not only that, a good five paragraph essay is still a good essay.

Today we start the editing process. At the beginning of class, they will arrange all their materials on their desks: their work so far, the prompt, the novel, and their writing folder with their goals and resources. I will also hand out a package of highlighters to each student.

Helping Each Other Highlight

20 minutes

Students are going to highlight their neighbor's work. It is a relatively quick and interactive way of reviewing and revising writing thus far (W.9-10.5). Plus, it's a great way for students to break down the essay and truly "see" what elements they are missing. Moreover, it's a really quick way for me to help them because I can see what they need and where it might fit. I explain this process in more detail here. The students have had enough practice with this activity at this point that they are ready to demonstrate their understanding of the color system and the elements of a long composition. I wouldn't have asked them to highlight someone else's work before now, but at this point in the year, this change in the process is enough to keep the process from getting stale. I still expect that their will be some questions about which elements align with specific colors, so I walk around and help clarify any questions they have about which elements of the essays might be which color.

I am asking them to highlight their neighbor's essay today because evaluating someone else's work raises the stakes. They have more pressure to do it correctly in order to help their friend. Plus, I think it will propel conversation about what commentary looks like and how to write convincingly (W.9-10.1c). And in turn, it will help them reevaluate and revise their own writing.

You can find out more about Writing with Colors at this website.


30 minutes

Once the work has been highlighted, students will get their own writing back to look at with fresh eyes. It's time to revise. In this clip, which is also included as a resource the previous section, I have a conversation with a student about what her highlighted essay shows her. I expect that most essays will be returned missing orange and blue, transitions and commentary. I know that these elements of the essays are the hardest to write. Transitions are hard because they are the only element not included in the outline, so some students will forget to add them as they piece together the sections from their pre-writing. Commentary is hard because it has to come from their head; it's the part that gives everything else meaning. I try to focus each student on what they are missing so that they can fill in the gaps.

Wrapping Up

5 minutes

In the last few minutes of class, I will ask what students learned today. What can this process help you realize? It will be a short, but useful conversation.