I use SRSD (Self-Regulated Strategy Development) as my primary way of teaching writing to my students. There are a lot of reasons why I love it. It’s research validated. It connects easily to whatever type of writing instruction is happening in their classrooms–workshop models, process writing, etc.–so the skills they learn are easily transferred. It provides just the right amount of structure for students who need it, while not being constricting for students who don’t (check out the article in AMLE Magazine by Pooja Patel & Leslie Laud for more info). The best part, though, is that it’s flexible. We’ve been working on close reading for a while and I’ve asked students, as part of Sunday Cummins‘s model of close reading, to follow up their reading with a written response. Of course, I used the familiar TIDE organizer that we’ve been using all year, but the results weren’t what I had hoped.
We had done everything right. We had discussed the strategy. I worked with them to develop their background knowledge, and made connections between our work with close reading and our work with using TIDE to help us plan and organize paragraphs. We set goals. I modeled, both by looking for the parts of the paragraph in a model piece of writing and by using the active board to model writing a response. I modeled my own positive self-talk as I wrote. And I provided supports and scaffolds. Their writing still didn’t make the connections and inferences I wanted them to make, so I decided to turn it over to them. And they took me somewhere really amazing.
I asked them to make a poster that would teach someone else about how to write about close reading, and to use a metaphor to do it (an idea I got from Pete Hall at the BTCFS workshop). Writing about close reading, they said, was like an iceberg. Above the water, they said, is the main idea, supported by the “pasta words” (what Cummins calls the important details). Under the water, they told me, was the synthesis–the conclusions they draw that can’t be found directly in the text. After they made their iceberg, they added images to help them. A boat called the S.S. Annotation to remind them to use what they had written on the text to help them identify the pasta words and to remind them to use their “I wonder…” annotations to help them make connections and draw conclusions. They also added an airplane (with flaming jet engines, of course), where they wrote what makes a good main idea. They added post-its to explain all of the parts, and then explained their new strategy to a colleague of mine from the ELL department who happened to be walking by the classroom.
The next class when we went to work on writing, it was a huge change. They had ownership of the type of writing I was asking them to do, and of the strategy I had asked them to employ. When we went through the modeling and practice, and the results were so much better than the first time. All because they took over defining the parts of the text themselves. They had the background knowledge, I just needed to find a way to empower them make the connections between the two topics that would help them take ownership of their writing.
They really came up with something great.
How do you empower your students to make connections and take ownership of their learning?