Revising Reflection: Determining Relevance in a Personal Writing

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SWBAT write and revise reflective essays by participating in self and peer revision of their service learning essays.

Big Idea

Students revise essays based on common parameters for unique service-learning experiences.

Introduction to Revising the Community Service Learning Essay

Let's Get Started: Locate and/or Log On

5 minutes

As the students walk in I give them a number.  I want to organize them in groups of three. Fortunately, I have 33 students--11 groups of 3. I prefer to have at least two peers give feedback on an essay.  I hope no one is absent. I ask the students to find the other students with their number and sit together.  

Once everyone is in a seat, I tell them to get out their rough draft of their essay. The essay is a reflection on their volunteer service project that also provides information on their volunteer location and their rationale for choosing that location. Some might argue that this is informational writing, but the focus on narrative structure that I employ with my students align better with the W.9-10.3 narrative writing standards.  

As a reminder, students had to volunteer in our community at a place of their choice.  The reflection is an opportunity for them to review their experiences and share it with others. Also it is my belief that reflective practitioners usually find more satisfaction and success in their endeavors. This essay is an opportunity for them to engage in reflective practice. The requirements for the essay are in their service learning handout.  

I am aware of some of my students' limited access to technology outside of school. These rough drafts arrive in a variety of forms: on google docs, typed and printed, and hand-written double spaced.  If they need a laptop to access their draft, I have the COW (Computers on Wheels) in my room. I give them a few minutes to get organized. 

Applying Knowledge: Reviewing the Content and Sequence

20 minutes

Now that they are organized, I want to review the content and sequence of the essay.  I provided them with a specific structure when I assigned the project. I want them to tell their story, however they need to demonstrate relevance by answering the question: why is volunteering beneficial to me and my community?

I begin by reviewing the content.  I give the students prompts and they tell me what to write on the board.  Next I move on to the sequence of the essay (W 9-10 3c).  The organization is key to getting their point across.  I want them to see how to build a narrative that is about their experience but also includes information about the organization or place they volunteered.  Students can follow the questions in their service learning handout if they are struggling to organize the sequence.  It would be somewhat formulaic but acceptable. They need to see that narrative is not a synonym for a me-centric story. A narrative is a story, however the focus should not revolve around the student but the place s/he volunteered and what it does for the community as a whole.  The role of the student is only one component of a larger narrative.  I also remind them that the conclusion should do more than wrap up their experience, it needs to speak to future opportunities for either them or the place where they volunteered. 

Finally, I answer any lingering questions about the revision process or the essay.

Applying Knowledge: Self-Revision

15 minutes

Today is not their first time up to the plate for revision.  They know the protocols. I ask them to tell me the revision protocols and I write them on the board.

  • 1. Self-Revision
  • 2. Frist Peer Revision for content
  • 3. Second Peer Revision for organization 
  • Convention/grammar corrections as needed
  • 4. Verbal Group Feedback on the Revisions

Hopefully it has been serval hours since the student have reviewed their essays.  Before they show it to someone else, self-revision is an opportunity for them to make last minute changes.  Now, they can read either silently to themselves or go in the hall and read out loud themselves.  I prefer to read out loud.   I have made them practice out loud reading, however some of them don't like it. Now that they all have tried it at least once, I let them choose. They also have a copy of the holistic rubric I use to grade the essays. They can refer to it or use it in any way that will help them improve their essay. 

As they read they can make corrections to their rough drafts (W.9-10.5).

Applying Knowledge: Peer Revision

45 minutes

Revision is overwhelming. That is why some students want to simply make spelling and minor grammar corrections. It is hard to really break down an essay and give useful feedback to a peer.  It takes focus and practice.  Having at least two people look at an essay and each person is focusing on a different element takes some of the pressure off the reviser. 

The next two steps involve peer reviewers.  

  • 3. Second Peer Revision for organization 
  • Convention/grammar corrections as needed
  • 4. Verbal Group Feedback on the Revisions

The first reviewer reads the essay all the way through once and then goes back and gives written feedback looking specifically at content (W9-10. 5). The person who is checking content will pay extra attention to the conclusion (W 9-10 3e) to make sure it meets the criteria. It has to contain a look to the future for either  the writer or the place the writer volunteered. 

The second reader repeats the process. However, s/he focuses on organization or the sequence of the narrative (W. 9-10 3c).  

After at least two people have written feedback on the essay, the group can move to verbal feedback. Each person in the group now has their own essay.  Each student reads his/her essay and the written feedback. Next they discuss (SL 9-10. 6) the feedback by answering questions and providing clarification when necessary.

If they finish before the end of class, they can start working on revising their essay.  The step to rewrite is actually number six in the revision process. I don't list it because I want them to focus on feedback and work or rewriting later. 

Wrap Up: Next Steps

5 minutes

The reflective narrative is short. I expect everyone to finish editing before the end of class. If someone or a group is not done, they can come into tutoring at the end of the day for help.  Also if anyone needs my help or needs to use a computer, it is available during tutoring.  I remind them of the due date for their final narrative.  They will turn it in on Edmodo, a free online class website. It has to be typed in MLA format (L 9-10.3a and W.9-10.8) .  I tell them if they forget the formatting to check the OWL as an online resource.