A while ago I read a blog post asking Should Students Write Their Own Reports? and of course my answer was a resounding YES!
But it was not until this year – where I had team of like-minded educators and the support of leadership and administration – that I was able to put this idea ino practice.
And, spolier alert, it was pretty magical!
In order to dispel the common misconception that initiatives like this one means saying to the students “go write your own reports” while teachers sit back, sipping coffee and browsing their facebook…. I will share with you our process, from start to finish, along with some honest reflections along the way about how it worked and what we will change for next time.
Here is what we did:
We knew that we really wanted students to take ownership of reporting their growth and progress to their parents for the first Unit of Inquiry, however we were also aware that this was likely the first time students had ever done this. So we thought long and hard (and spent many hours discussing) how we could support them in the process of writing their own reports. In the end, we decided to try guiding them through the writing process.
Step 1 – Pre-Writing
First we had students choose two Self-Management Skills and two Social Skills that they felt they developed as a result of our Who We Are Unit. Next, we used the Visible Thinking Routine “Generate, Sort, Connect, Elaborate” to help students reflect on the learning expereinces that contributed to their development of each of those skills.
Generate: Students wrote down anything and everything that they had done within the unit.
Some students went through their Seesaw portfolios and others browsed their day plans to help them remember all their different experiences. They wrote each experience on a small piece of paper.
Sort: Students placed the learning experiences purposefully on a graphic organizer. The more that learning experience contributed to the development of a specific skill, the closer they placed it to the skill on the organizer. The more it contributed to their understanding of Who We Are the closer they placed it to the transdisciplinary theme in the center of the page.
Connect: Students drew arrows to show connections: between two learning experiences: between learning experiences and skills: between learning experiences and the transdisciplinary theme etc.
Elaborate: Students explained their reason for the connections along the arrows they drew.
Secondly, we set up a Google Form where students could synthesize some of the ideas from the above brainstorm. We set-up the form so students could evaluate to what extent they developed each skill and so they could bring together the different experiences that developed each skill. We also had questions to allow students to evaluate their understanding of the central concepts of the unit, as well as begin to brainstorms their next steps as learners.
The Google Form was set-up to auto-format their responses into a Google Doc that they could then refer to when it was time to draft their comments.
Step 2 – Drafting
To help students take their ideas from the brainstorming stage and turn it into comments that would be understood by a reader, we set up a graphic organizer with guiding questions.
Students then used their VTR and their automatically formatted Google Doc mentioned above to write a first draft of their comments in the boxes.
Step 3 – Revision
Our big focus for revision, was organization and transitions. Because students wrote four separate responses in the four boxes shown above, we wanted to support them in synthesizing those separate responses together into a coherent piece of writing. So first we had them copy and paste their responses from the boxes, into one piece of text.
Then, we pulled out examples of transition sentences that some students naturally used in their draft and shared them with all the writers.
Then we colour coded either where we had seen an attempt in their draft to transition from one idea to the next, or where a transition sentence might be needed.
Step 4 – Editing
Before we started the editing process, we used the Golden Circles approach (Why, How, What) to create a class anchor chart about feedback.
Then students took themselves through a process of self-editing
and peer editing.
Finally, the teachers gave feedback to students by leaving them detailed and specific comments on their Google Doc. For English Language Learners and students who needed extra support, we sat with them and shared our feedback orally.
Step 5 – Publishing
In order to also contribute our voice and perspective to the report, the techers then wrote a short paragraph in response to the students’ evaluation of their own learning. We wrote about the degreee to which we agreed and supported the students’ evaluation based on our own observations and assessment data.
Finally, we posted the final product and Managebac and pushed it out to parents.
Step 6 – Getting Feedback
We wanted to make sure we gave parents a chance to share their perspective with us about our approach to having students write their own reports. So we sent them a Google Form.
Here is what they had to say:
- it felt so nice to have students take ownership of this process
- it was the first time I felt like I was doing reporting with students, not to students
- it helped our students develop their evaluation skills, along with their meta-cognition skills
- it helped our students see that we are not just “talking the talk” of student ownership, but actually “walking the walk”
- it was one of the most authentic writing tasks I have ever seen; there was an authentic purpose, an authentic audience and therefore an authentic need for planning, revising and editing
- this specific process, was a bit too overstructed and as a result, convuluted – in the future we will streamlime to process (specifically with regards to pre-writing and planning)
- it was SO validating to see that NOT ONE parent wanted to have fully teacher-written reports!
- it was definitely “assessment as learning” in order for students to evaluate and synthesize their report, they needed to deeply consolidate and reflect upon their own learning
- moving forward, we need to go through all of the constructive feedback from the parents and figure out how to address their concerns in order to help them feel that the student-written Evaluations of Learning (EOLs) are even more effective
What do you see as the benefits and drawbacks of student-written reports?
How do you include your students in the process and product of their written reports?
What feedback do you have for us to help us strengthen our approach to student-written reporting?