Thursday, 16 October 2014

DIRT

I am battling with one of my year 4 classes to get them to redraft their work efficiently. 

The example below is of a non-fiction (cross curricular) animal report they had been building up to. I was set the task of getting them to produce the final draft after the teacher had marked their work. She had used a pink highlighter to tick and comment where they had been successful; and green marking codes (eg sp for spelling etc) and comments for errors. At the bottom of their work she had given them a main correctional task eg. rewrite paragraph three focusing on .... etc. (It is important, I feel, to note that she had corrected every single mistake made by the children- which must have taken her a great deal of time).

displayed some suggested DIRT activities on the IWB (though they were not used much during the lesson because the teacher had already made so many corrections on their work).

They understand the benefit of DIRT (dedicated, improvement and reflection time), as I had shown them the Austin's butterfly youtube video. The video discusses how a small child improved his    copy of a butterfly picture through redrafting his work several times. We talked about the video and I thought they would then produce vastly superior work than before. 

They redrafted their work in silence, apart from peer assistance, for one hour.  I put students' work under the visualiser, at stages throughout the lesson, to show good examples, or ask the class if they could make suggestions where students were stuck. 

Several problems followed:
1. Several children could not understand what the teacher's comments meant (myself or a peer had to explain to them).

2. Lower attaining children had too many sp mistakes to correct and struggled to correct them all using dictionaries and key word cards.

3. Several children rewrote their work ignoring/forgetting to change errors- even obvious ones eg. that were at the start of the writing. 

4. Several children ignored the teacher's overall comment regarding how the piece could be improved. 

5. There were some occasions where spellings or other errors eg. grammatical or punctuation were still incorrect even after they had been altered.

In short, the pupils clearly needed more training/practise in the skills necessary to redraft their work. 

As our school is trying to promote indepemdent learning, I couldn't help wondering if they would have been more successful if they had checked their own work prior to marking and flagged up where they thought they had made mistakes. The teacher could then have commented on those sections. Also, If they had been able to choose a DIRT task from my menu of choices, would this have given them more ownership over their redrafting?

It has led me to this question: Is it helpful to let a child know every mistake (eg. spelling) they have made, and expect every mistake to be corrected? After all sometimes if they had known how to do it correctly, wouldn't they have done it in the first place (carelessness aside). There are times when no amount of English display materials, dictionaries, thesaurus and word banks can help (indeed some even used my computer to google a spelling that wasn't in the dictionary). Sometimes they just don't possess the skills to make the necessary improvements. 

This is where it is really important to consider our expectations and question our actions. Is it more useful for a child with special needs to correct an entire piece of extended work (potentially disheartening and time consuming), or examine a few sentences in detail and go back to any relevant spelling patterns etc that might help (perhaps with support)?

I will be teaching a similar lesson with the same class in the near future and will definitely be encouraging the pupils to be more independent, and hopefully successful when I do.

Any suggestions will be very well received.




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