Feedback that Serves Those Who MAKE Writing

This week’s post is written especially for those who are making writing with their students and eager to elevate the quality of what writers build, before they help them transition to print.

What do I mean by MAKING writing? Well, this is what I mean. 

And why would we do this, anyway? I offer some brief thoughts on this here.

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If you’ve been experimenting with making inside of your own writing workshop or classroom, then you might be wondering: How might I help writers make their builds even better? What feedback might I offer? When? Why?

I find that when my feedback is aligned to my mini-lesson learning target or teaching point, it moves makers and writers forward. When I offer that feedback on my feet, over their shoulders, and at the very moment when they might actually use it, I find that it’s far more effective, too. And whether I’m responding to the print that they produce or the build that they create, I know that when I ask just right questions and offer invitations that are accompanied by tangible strategies, writers are far more likely to risk revision.

In short, when my feedback is targeted, timely, offered in limited doses, and accompanied by a tangible tool or strategy, it helps. And when any of those pieces are missing, it doesn’t.

I’ve distilled the best of this learning (relevant to the production of print) in this document. It’s one I share with the teachers I support on the ground often, and it’s always evolving, in response to what we discover together, too. You’re welcome to register, download it for free, and distribute it non-commercially, too. Just give me credit, if you do.

So, that’s all well and good when it comes to PRINT, but how might we offer feedback that helps writers create better iterations of all that they BUILD in our MAKE writing workshops? I’ve spent some time getting better at this over the years, and I’ve been watching the teachers and students that I support do the same. Over the next few weeks, I’ll share the best of what we’ve been learning together. I hope it helps some of you, and I hope that you will share, too.

Targets and teaching points matter here, too. So does timeliness, dosage, and the opportunity to experiment with a variety of tangible tools and strategies. And that’s why I’m loving quite a few of the new books that found their way into my fall stack, all. Especially this one, by Trevor Andrew Bryan:

I actually added this one to my summer reading stack, but then, I gave it away. A teacher friend who I adore was so excited to read it, and I just couldn’t say no. Her students are already benefiting from that donation, and my new copy arrived just in time for peak week in western New York. The leaves are on fire, and I spent a part of last Tuesday afternoon on a sunny patio with a cup of coffee and a pad of sticky notes that were put to very quick use.

I appreciate this book in the same way that I appreciated Falling in Love with Close Reading by Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts and Beyond Literary Analysis by Rebekah O’Dell and Allison Marchetti. All of these books include elegant strategies that scale far beyond any particular type of text, content area, or context. These are ideas that make us so much more than better readers or writers.

They make us better humans. They’re also as simple as they are substantial, and this matters much in my world. Like anyone, teachers who are trying new things need targeted, timely, and carefully dosed feedback. They also need strategies and tools.

If you’re ready to begin peeking over a maker’s shoulder and offering far more meaningful feedback, start here, with a quick dip into Bryan’s Access Lenses (brought to life by the inimitable Peter Reynolds). How might they help you offer targeted, purposeful feedback to the makers in your writing workshops, all? Want a downloadable set of your own? You’ll find them right here.

Using the Access Lenses to Frame Quality Feedback for Makers and Writers:

When we encourage writers to build their stories, arguments, poems, and informational texts using mediums and modalities other than print, we automatically nurture metaphorical thinking. I’ve blogged about this before. Materials matter, but let’s think about the way that the Access Lenses might help young makers and writers work them to their fullest potential, too:

For instance, the Access Lenses might be used to help a writer begin revealing a character’s thoughts or feelings:

I’m wondering how you might add a bit of body language to your build? How might you show us how your character feels in this moment?

What is your character thinking about right now? What are the colors of her thoughts? How might you include them in your build?

The Access Lenses can guide our conversations and creations relevant to conflict or counterarguments, too: 

How might you play with proximity in this build? Who is aligned? Who is at odds? Who is alone? How might you use your materials to demonstrate this?

Which symbols might best represent your evidence? How might you make them?

Several weeks ago, a writer in one of my workshops intuitively called upon big and little things into play when he was thinking about the lessons he learned from a camp experience: 

And when we invite writers to unmake a build, it helps them zoom in on the detail:

I suppose that I could make sets of feedback frames for each of the Access Lenses above, but I’d rather invite you to do this, instead. Lifting and dropping pre-fabricated feedback frames on all of you won’t help you get better at generating your own, and that kind of thinking matters. More importantly, we all get better when we all share different approaches and perspectives. That’s why this post will be one in a series intended to help you frame better feedback to the makers and writers that you serve. I have a few other resources and thinkers to recommend, all. I hope you’ll circle back to this space over the next few weeks if you’d like to learn more. And come find me on Twitter or Facebook to brainstorm and chat about all of this, if you’d like. Find Trevor Andrew Bryan, too. I know he’d like to hear from you, make writing friends!

 

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