Last time 10th graders handed in an essay I asked them to self-assess the final draft and to reflect on their writing process (see this blog about the first time). I was mildly shocked at the disparity between most students’ assessment of their writing and my assessment of it, and also at many students’ lack of metacognitive awareness of their writing process. And I barely remembered, the day before they were going to hand in their next essay, that it would be a good idea to follow-up with another self-assessment and reflection.
I’m really glad I did remember, because I saw marked improvement in both categories--and I can target with greater accuracy those few students who really either don’t know or don’t care. Here are some of the things students said they learned about the various stages of the writing process.
- I don’t have to worry about format or required things in the beginning. I have to just get my thoughts down, then fix it later.
- I learned that prewriting is the stage where you kind of brainstorm, to see if you’re on the right track.
- Bullet form notes are helpful.
- Outlining really does help.
- I need to have the prompt written out in front of me.
- I learned that even when it’s hard to get thoughts out onto the page, it’s important to do so because later I can go back and have something to work on.
- If you try to be perfect on the draft, nothing will happen.
- If you slack off on your rough draft, it is very hard to write a good essay.
- The more I do in the rough draft, the easier it is later on and I get more help.
- You can make mistakes; write what you want to say! Take care of it later during revising!
- Write freely. Keep on point. Be simple.
- It seems like what you want to write at the time, but you look back on it and see that is was such a “rough” draft.
- Before fixing grammar mistakes, it is better to fix ideas and content first.
- That other people’s feedback can really make a difference on the paper, if you read and consider them.
- I have to revise more than just what is written.
- You have to change other parts in order to fit one part smoothly.
- Changing a sentence to make it active is more interesting.
- It makes a big difference in how you feel about the essay. After a few changes were made I felt a little more confident.
- To understand the mistakes of what I have done is more important than just rewriting what the teacher said.
- I have to edit everything carefully. I can’t just do the easy ones to fix and skip the hard ones.
- That there’s almost always something to fix, and it helps you learn for next time.
- I learned to read the whole essay over again.
- When I edit the paper, I should focus more on it because many of the things were done in the previous essay as well.
- Making things concise is the key in writing a good essay (making it simple).
- How can I make my writing have good logical order? I always have trouble ordering things in a logical way even in math class.
- What should be done to the conclusion to get readers more involved in this issue?
- Looking over my essay, I noticed for the first time that I use vague phrasings such as “It is...” and so on. Does that stand out in my writing?
- How can I make a simple sentence to stronger sentence not just using strong, rich vocabulary?
- It usually takes a lot of time for me to write the 1st sentence of an essay. What are the best ways to “start” writing?
- How can I connect the quotes before and after the sentence?
- How can I improve my thesis to make it more compact and smooth?
- I write like I talk. How can I fix this?
They are getting better at articulating what the writing process is, how it works for them, and what they want to know. I know that doesn’t necessarily mean they believe it and do it. But they certainly have a better chance of believing and doing it if they can articulate it than if they can’t. After all, reflection is the key to transfer, and it’s not just my papers I’m wanting them to use the writing process on, but everything they will ever write in the rest of their lives.
It’s what writers do.