Writing instruction continues to be a weakness in my skill set. I have great confidence that I can take a student who writes well, and guide them towards truly effective writing--or what I call refinement.
Taking a student whose skills are still in the development stage and moving them towards a higher level of communication, that's where I struggle.
I can point out a student's weakness, but I don't know where to begin the instruction. Here's an example from student work as it appeared:
I am an Insider... very popular and known throughout the school. But, I feel differen because they always are talking about others and I don't want to be the blame. The feeling of picking on others makes me feel different. When, you want to be that nerd's freind or that girl/boy who's very quiet and stay's to himself but you are afraid about what the Insiders would say about youthen and you'll no longer be Them.
Her thoughts turn out to be excellent as she describes her desire to move out of the "insider" group in order to be kinder and more compassionate. But the thought gets lost in the writing mistakes. I started to mark up the essay by eliminating the elipse and deleting what followed in order for the first two sentences to read as follows:
I am an Insider. People know me.
But then I thought, I can't mark up every error and provide an alternative, can I? That's where I struggle. What type of feedback on an essay is appropriate and more importantly, helpful.
Another student's essay had already developed sentence structure and grammar proficiency, so my comments were more stylistic in nature. Here's her work as it appeared:
In the car, I began to feel nauseous. I didn't know what to expect, going to a new school with new people and new teachers. However, I knew for sure that the car ride was going by way too fast and I began to feel butterflies in my stomach. I opened my backpack to check and see if I had everything...pencils that were already sharpened, 3 new notebooks, a few folders, and extra paper. I began to squirm in my seat as we got closer and closer to the school. I didn't want step foot through the door of the massive building that I would now call my school.
Not bad at all. So my advice was to make a few stylistic changes by reducing sentence three's word total and turning sentence four into shorter, quicker sentence fragments to add to the tone and speed of the car ride itself:
However, I knew for sure that the car ride was going by too fast. I felt my stomach flutter. I opened my backpack. Sharpened pencils. Three new noteboooks. A few folders. I began to squirm in my seat as we neared the school.
By the way, I feel like I am baring my soul to my readers by telling you all how I would provide feeback on essays--there is something personal to it. However, I truly feel as if I am on a Feedback Island. I have never had a conversation with a colleague about how to give formative feedback on student writing.