Monday, June 16, 2008

Response Groups in Composition

The purpose of this blog is to summarize articles on teaching English/language arts, from kindergarten through college, published in English education journals from the past.

Topic: Response Groups in Composition

Title: “Catching the Drift: Keeping Peer-Response Groups on Track.” M. Francine Danis. College Composition and Communication (October 1988), 356-358. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: “ ‘We waste a lot of time in our group—you know, we talk about the papers for a while: then we get into other topics.’ That’s a fairly common judgment when students evaluate their peer-response group.”

“They [students] feel cheated—justifiably so—when group discussions turn repeatedly into mere bull sessions.”

The author suggests that groups keep on track when they make observations about the paper under discussion. For three minutes after reading the paper, they write non-stop what they observed in the paper. Rules: No negatives. No judgments. No inferences. Just observations of what they see in the paper.

Example: “The middle part was the best.” Judgment. NO!
“The middle part is intense.” Inference. NO!
“The middle part is mostly dialogue.” Observation of what is really on the paper. YES!
The group then reads their observations to the writer.

Comments: Will these observations be helpful to the writer? What will they learn from them? How will the observations help the writer to improve the paper? Who decides if an “observation” is negative, judgment or inference? This technique , for me, would be one which I would use with the students and have the students determine if it was successful. RayS.

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