Sharing and Celebrating (Shy) Students' Writing
Many of my special-needs students have speaking goals on their IEPs both for social reasons and due to their disability classifications as speech and language-impaired. For this reason, it is really important that I have structures in place in my class which help my students engage in various speaking-related activities. One way I do this is with the read-arounds I mentioned in my last post, and I realized that this structure is something I want to share with you as well! I hope it will be as successful in your classrooms as it is in mine.
Writer’s workshop is one of the most challenging activities for my special-needs students. It draws on so many kinds of thinking and often requires students to work in their most serious areas of weakness. Many students lack confidence about their final writing projects and are reluctant to share them, but I know that to be successful students later in their academic career, they will need to be able to share and receive feedback on their work.
To combat this fear of sharing, I initially began read-arounds in small groups to help students get used to receiving support about their work from peers and not just from me. They were structured pretty simply: three or four self-selected students would share their work with each other and give feedback. As a class, we established that two plusses and one question was a good balance of positive feedback and supportive guidance. Even my shyest students were eventually willing to share in these small pockets! While my co-teacher and I would circulate and listen in, we did not really jump in or offer evaluation of the presentations in order to build trust between the students.
Eventually, as our students gained confidence, we wanted to open up the presentations to our larger class group. We needed to build trust slowly, so my co-teacher and I shared some of our own writing and had the students give us feedback (highly enjoyed by all). When we first started whole-class presentations, some of our students really flourished, but others withdrew and became extremely upset at any sort of critical feedback (even when offered in a supportive way). After talking a lot, my co-teacher and I decided that it was more important for our students to feel comfortable speaking in front of each other than to receive critical feedback for the time being; that will come later.
Our refined read-aloud process that is in use now is an entirely positive one. At the end of writer’s workshop projects, we have our celebrations. I have students who earn 3s or 4s on their rubrics present their work, and everyone in the class has the option to communicate their feedback anonymously with a positive note. I try to have different students present each time, and I consolidate the post-its on a long sheet of paper with the presenter’s name on it. This makes a really nice keepsake and commemorates the accomplishments of the presenter both in terms of his or her excellent writing and bravery in presenting!
What structures do you have in place to coax reluctant students to share their work in class? Please share your successes here by posting comments!!