Getting students to write about their writing.

I’ve already written a fair amount on this blog about SLA’s bi-weekly 2Fer essays. In brief, students in the 11th grade write a short analytical paper on any topic they choose, (roughly) every two weeks.

To emphasize the portfolio-style nature of this assignment, multiple 2fers live on the same Google Doc. When they finish one assignment and reflect on it, those reminders are the first thing they see when it’s time to start a new one. Then, in the middle of the year, we ask them to write a “Self-Reflective 2Fer” turning those reflections into a comprehensive thesis.

The instructions:

Your task this week is to write a 2Fer analyzing… your own 2Fer writing! The goal is to figure out HOW you can improve your writing, so your thesis statement should analyze a weakness in your composition.

Consider zooming in on one or two of the following focus areas: Thesis/Focus, Content/Development, Organization, Style, and Conventions.

One more thing… for this paper, the first person is allowed! Just make sure you’re not writing a long story about what distracts you from getting your work done. I want analysis of actual writing, not excuses why the writing isn’t there. You can and should quote:

  • — sections from your old 2Fers
  • — edits from your peers
  • — comments from Ms. Pahomov, both in your 2fers and at the end of each quarter
  • — your own “student reflections” completed after each 2Fer
  • — your edited papers that appear on the 2Fer Quarterly

Once students see that this is less work than a typical 2Fer, they relax. And then they get into it, looking at the four papers they have already written this year for patterns and trends. The goal is for them to really see how the five categories for feedback — thesis/focus, content/development, organization, style, and conventions — really connect. Here are a few choice quotes from this year so far:

“I like to take a clear stance on the topic I choose. A 2fer is supposed to do this, but I make it seem like it’s not even a topic that can be broken down into two parts. By this I mean, many of my 2fers are structured like, “The thing I support is so much better than this other thing.” Where by representing one side and one side only, I dominate one side of the topic and pound it into a bloody pulp.”

“When I get passionate about my papers, I look at it as a good thing, but it’s actually jumbling my papers up so that I list my opinions and it makes my paper biased.”

“The main problem with my writing is that I don’t know how to put the pretty bow on the top of it. And by that I mean, I don’t know how to write conclusions.”

A big advantage to doing this in the middle of the year is that their discoveries become their personal goals for the next semester — typed up in a big box at the top of their next Google Doc. The entire process becomes more customized — students know exactly what their weak spots are, and what steps they should be taking to improve. The peer editing discussions get more detailed, and the revisions go faster. This isn’t to say that they magically resolve their issues — but at the very least they know what they need to work on. Writing becomes a more transparent craft.

This post was inspired by Kate and Maggie’s Rinse and Repeat blog post. If you want more information about 2Fers, check out the slide deck below.


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