Thursday, January 29, 2009

High School/College Topic: Teachers' Comments on Student Writing

10-second review: Students have little understanding of teachers’ comments on their writing.

Title: “Detection, Diagnosis, and the Strategies of Revision.” L Flower, et al. College Composition and Communication (February 1986), 16-55. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary: “…Knoblauch and Brannon suggest that students have trouble translating teachers’ comments into new strategies: ‘The depressing trouble is, we have scarcely a shred of empirical evidence to show that students typically even comprehend our responses to their writing, let alone use them purposefully to modify their practice.’ ” p. 52.

Comment: I’m as guilty as any other teacher of writing. I never asked the students if they understood what I said in my written responses to their writing. And that’s where I would begin. When I return students’ compositions to them in the future, I will ask students to write on an attached sheet of paper what they understood and what they didn’t about my comments on their papers. Then should follow how I could turn my comments into comprehensible English.

By the way, I found another method to help students understand the changes they need to make in their writing. Most people will think what I am about to say is heresy. But it worked! At the beginning of class, I would ask students to write for ten minutes on any topic they wished. I urged them to write as well as they could. That night I rewrote any mistakes in grammar, style and clarity. The next day, students compared my corrections to their original ten minutes of writing. When they did not understand my changes, they asked. I continued to use comments with major compositions.

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