My daughter Alexandra is rocking it in 1st grade. Seriously. Unlike last year when she cried every morning of kindergarten for six weeks, she hit the ground running this year and has been happy since day one. It has been an enormous relief.
Although school started only six weeks ago, we have already had two Family Fridays and Curriculum Night during which I quickly learned that 1st grade is no joke. There is real reading and writing happening, and since the students have basic skills in each of these areas from kindergarten the 1st grade teachers follow the Teachers College Reading & Writing Workshop model. I was trained in this model for the three years when I was a Literacy Coach at my high school; I have a deep understanding of how this curriculum works.
Alexandra just completed her first writing piece: a true story about herself. At one point two weeks ago the story came home in the homework folder. It had already gone through peer review in class and was supposed to go through review with a parent. Directions were given. I was working late that night and Adam had to do the work with her, but I was impressed by the format and clarity of the review sheet. With this in mind, I decided to copy it for use in my own community college developmental Reading & Writing class. It was the first time we were doing peer review in class and I wanted the emphasize its importance. I also wanted it to be guided and somewhat easy to do.
We just got document cameras in our classrooms (I love them!), so I started class with a discussion about peer review. What is it? Why do we do it? Who does it? After this conversation, I showed them my daughter’s peer review sheet:
(Totally random, but that code on the bottom is a two-for-one promotion for Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular tickets, FYI!)
Next, I showed them Alexandra’s work and how she had made corrections to her draft based on her Writing Check-In Sheet:
And lastly, I split them into groups of three and went over our own peer review sheet:
The directions weren’t very clear (or on the sheet), but I told them to:
1. Read their peer’s paper one time through for clarity and ideas
2. Read a second time through and look for CONVENTIONS (I went over each one). They could write feedback on their partner’s essay. After checking specifically for Paragraphing, Essay Organization, and Thesis Development, they needed to initial those boxes on the Peer Review Sheet.
3. Read a third time for CRAFT. Give CRAFT comments on your peer’s essay. After checking for Personal Narrative, Textual Analysis, and QR (Quantitative Diary) Implementation, initial on the Peer Review Sheet.
I am not going to claim that it was magic but having the sheet seemed to guide them better. I kjnow this because, full disclosure, I teach three of the same R&W class. The day before I had only shown them my daughter’s peer review sheet, and while they were tickled by it, it provided no substantial guidance. That’s why the next day (when I taught my last section of the course), I tweaked my lesson by bringing in Alexandra’s writing to demonstrate her Writing Check-In Sheet in practice AND I created my own peer review sheet.
I love watching my daughter (and soon, my son!) learn to read and write. It informs my own teaching of reading and writing on so many levels.