During the second week, we have explored multiple approaches to process-based writing, including time management, active reading, and prewriting strategies (what I refer to as the composting stage). We devoted time to reading and discussing first-person narratives about having to make a major decision. We engaged in informal writings that were grounded in both narrative and expository writing--part of our foray into differentiating between showing and telling. For a blog assignment, students wrote the opening scenes to their This I Wonder essays. These opening scenes had to answer this audience request: "Show me the money!" In other words, the opening scene had to show action...had to use compelling narrative writing to grab the audience's attention. At this point, I am happy with the scenes I have read. In fact, multiple students have already shared their scenes in class. On a volunteer basis, these students brought up their blog post via the overhead projector and read their work to the classroom audience. After the reading, the presenting student had three options:
1. Sit down. This option allows the writer to read the work aloud to get a sense of the language and pace of the story. Audience feedback does not need to be a part of this process.
2. Receive feedback (American Idol style). This option allows the writer to receive comments from the audience. I prefaced this option by asking students to stay positive and to be respectful of the writer and of the work.
3. Writer-led discussion. This option allows the writer ask specific questions about her work that the audience can answer. In this way, the writer leads the conversation and chooses the areas he wants to focus on for revision.
Given the three options, each student chose option #2. I wonder if the "American Idol nature" of American society--we have become so quick to offer opinions, particularly through new media--has made us all a bit more open to critique. I hope it had more to do with students feeling comfortable in the classroom setting. I want students to trust their processes and to trust the workshop environment we are trying to construct in such a short time period. The audience feedback proved productive and appropriate, in terms of being both respectful and helpful. The writers responded to the feedback in ways that illustrated an openness to peer review.
The students carried the conversation--with minimal input from me. Good signs.
Here I will write, revise, and reflect. Not always in that order.