Sunday, 23 November 2014

'So that' EBITs for peer assessed writing

I have recently taught my Year 4 English class again. Their class teacher had set them the task of redrafting a myth that they had written the previous day. I have to say I had some apprehensions prior to teaching the lesson, as they had rewritten the myth of Persephone as a Mayan myth and I was going introduce a chef themed peer assessment tool (as their topic that term was chefs). However, when I looked at their first drafts that morning I could see that they had risen to the challenge.

To link back to previous learning, I asked them to recall the lessons we had learnt from watching Austin's butterfly on YouTube. They remembered the video in great detail and understood the message, that written work is a draft that can be improved upon many times. 

Then I told them about the three important aspects of providing good feedback; that it should be: helpful (so that), specific and kind but honest. I had taken these points from David Didau's blog (learning spy). We felt that they were already leaving kind and specific feedback but that it could be more helpful. I demonstrated how to add 'so that' to their EBIT (even better if targets).

Then we spent some time looking at how to choose a sensible EBIT. I showed them how to select a suitable improvement target based upon success criteria for sentence level work they had covered in their previous lessons. I did this by modelling how to use a peer assessment tool I had created, under the visualiser, in partnership with one of the pupils. Together we carried out an indepth critique of her work, the class chipped in at times. I asked her which SC she had achieved and we highlighted those in pink. The pink highlights helped to form the WWW (what worked well). Then we looked for SC she hadn't met, and highlighted obvious mistakes (eg. a few spelling mistakes) in green. The pupil realised that she had not included enough descriptive language eg. adjectives and noun phrases, in her myth; so she wrote the EBIT: "to include more adjectives 'so that' my myth is more interesting for the reader."

The next thing I did was to show the class an exciting sentence writing mat I had made for them, it had examples of how to reach any of the success criteria for the lesson (sentence level only). So for any EBIT they chose, there was scaffolding for how to reach their target. The lower attaining children had more basic success criteria including correct use of full stops etc. Whilst the higher attaining pupils' writing mat had examples for how to include fronted adverbial phrases etc. So the peer assessment tools and exciting sentence writing mats were both differentiated and linked directly to the SC. 

Then armed with their first draft, peer assessment tools, exciting sentence mats, dictionaries, thesaurus and high frequency word lists for LA pupils, they worked in pairs to find their main EBIT. 

Once they had discussed their work together, highlighted the tickled pink and green for growth, they wrote the EBIT at the top of their 2nd draft page. They then worked in silence to redraft their work. I asked them to highlight in pink everytime they added something into their writing that was linked to their EBIT. I stopped a few times to put pupils' work, who had made lots of improvements, under the visualiser. Finally at the end of the lesson children returned to their peer assisted  learning partner  (who we called their PAL). They checked to see if their partner had made improvements linked to their EBIT and wrote a comment and gave them a star rating for how well they had improved. 

When I came to mark their work I was pleased to see that I had eradicated the habit of writing 'improve your handwriting' as an EBIT. All children had selected a suitable target based upon the SC. Most children had then made several improvements also linked to the EBIT and had highlighted them. A few children demonstrated that they needed more practice with identifying adjectives and adverbs, so this can become a future lesson for that group of children, or a lesson starter. 

Some children had done even better than I had hoped for by writing really 'helpful' EBITs, for example one girl wrote: "add adjectives so that we know what the girl looks like." This child's comment will become the input for my next lesson with them, which will be how to fine tune our EBITs with 'so that'. 

Another success of the lesson was that a little boy, who happens to have Down's Syndrome, showed me another adaptation we can make to our DIRT work. When he wrote his second draft, not only did he highlight his improvements, but in a second colour, he also highlighted more errors he had spotted. This really showed me that he had understood Austin's butterfly beautifully; that work can be redrafted and improved upon many many times. As Ron Berger said: "it is not finished, until it is perfect." 

After a little more practise with their peer assessment and a few more indepth critiques, we will try a whole class gallery (or public) critique. This is where pupils go around the class reading other people's work and leave post it notes as EBIs. Watch this space for an update on our DIRT.

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