Oh man, I don’t know about you, but this year is both flying by and becoming more overwhelming every minute. Some of this is due to major changes at my specific location, but some is definitely due to constraints and new tasks that everyone statewide…even nationwide…are encountering. That’s why I love when I walk into a room, have a conversation, or find something lying by the copy machine that jumps out at me. I like to think of these searches as my Educational Safari, kind of like Katy from Mean Girls in her first experience at high school.
While collaborating with a colleague on an LDC unit around narrative techniques in writing (check out our rough draft unit planning here), I had one such Educational Safari moment. This 9th grade team has composed what they call 4-3-2-1 Revise, which is inspired from a group read of Reviving the Essay.
Why am I excited about catching this example?
- It starts with the best example. So, students instantly see an example of good writing, which builds a reference point for their conception of writing.
- The analysis of the writing changes as you drill down to each example.
- Writing samples can come from anywhere: published author, teacher written, student written, newspaper, informational text, literary text.
- Teachers create the 3 other samples, which means they refine their sense of adding details and how one writes those drafts.
How do you make and use the 4-3-2-1 Revision?
The 4-3-2-1 Revise takes sample writing from lowest rough draft through four stages of drafting the exact same piece except with an innovative twist, in my opinion. The teachers start with the best exemplar writing and work their way back to the roughest, simplest, non-detailed writing sample.
You absolutely must start with what you want your students to be able to learn and emulate in their writing. As we know, we learn to read at higher level as our writing’s sophistication increases, and we learn to write at a sophisticated level by reading higher level texts. In the example shared, these teachers want their students to know narrative techniques, adding details, and elaboration.
Find and create expert texts that provide illustration of your desired student writing outcomes. Here, you see an example from student writing. This same unit used examples from the teacher, Junot Diaz, and David Sedaris.
- It’s important to use student writing to show students that the goals are achievable.
- It’s important to use teacher and published authors as they will be a sophisticated level above your student writing.
- What’s cool about using a published author is the dissection of their craft to a rougher draft. It certainly built my expertise as a writer when I attempted this.
- Even more important, dissecting your own writing back to a rough draft stage makes you more in tune with your student’s level of writing and how to help them. For most of us, we have written sophisticated and detailed sentences for so long that it seems “natural”.
When working with students, you will see that we have chosen to have students read through the text for 2 purposes. Always, always, always give your students a purpose to why they are reading. In this case, the students are looking for “things they like” and “things they can use”. As the year moves on, you change these prompts to mirror the needs and language acquisition of your class. As students complete a reading, they summarize their annotation in the thought bubble. For examples A-3, A-2, A-1, you can mix it up for the annotation. Instead of looking for things they like (because that low example won’t have much), the students can compare that piece of writing to the expert text for differences. They can think about in their thought bubble how the rough draft text has been strengthened in the expert A-4 text, or any higher level. What steps and additions did the author take in order to strengthen their writing?
I invite all of you to head out an Educational Safari around your building and online. There’s so much great stuff happening around you to applaud your colleagues, modify to your work, and share with educators around you.