Ruth Ayres speak at the Literacy Connection in October. It seems that whenever I draw from my own experiences as a reader, writer, and learner, I am able to make stronger connections with my students and my expectations for them. I know that I learn so much and am so grateful to my own writing group and I wanted my students to have the same experiences. Franki posted this blog just as Sarah and I were beginning to think through how we would set up our own partnerships. I'm always thankful to teachers who are willing to share what they are doing in their classrooms. We were able to use some of the resources Franki suggested as we created lessons for our own young writers.
As we prepared to set up response partners, we asked the kids to write about who they thought they would work well with and give their reasons. We reminded them that we weren't making any promises that they would get to work with the person on their paper, but we would take it into consideration. Then Sarah and I set to establishing some partnerships. (It was a great meeting over coffee and tea at Panera one Saturday morning). We took many things into consideration when we grouped kids. We thought about personalities, writing strengths and challenges, and writing attitudes. We wanted the partners to support as well as challenge each other to take risks and stretch themselves.
Using the fishbowl method, Sarah and I showed what a partner meeting might look like as I shared a piece of writing with her. The kids watched and then talked with their partner about what they noticed. Their thinking can be seen on the chart above. (Disregard the awkward phrasing as I apparently didn't read over my work before taking the picture ~ that will get fixed when I return to school). One of the most important things they noticed was that we didn't talk about the whole piece. I asked for specific feedback on a certain section of my piece. Our conversation went back and forth as we focused on that one paragraph. They were able to observe that our talk was respectful and helpful to me as the writer.
I am excited for the kids be able to delve more into our writing partnerships. We're just beginning a unit on opinion writing and the partnerships right now are doing a lot of talking about their writing. I'm hopeful that as the year goes on, these newly formed partnerships will blossom into strong relationships that parallel those I have with my own writing group.