Joint Construction

11 Sep

My Year 9 students have been struggling to write clear and coherent paragraphs.  Sometimes their paragraphs read as a laundry list of technique, example and effect.  Other times, they are recounting.  In many instances they are asserting the effect of a language technique rather than explaining how the language used shapes meaning.

I recently worked with a group of students to jointly compose a paragraph.  Before we started, we discussed the essential qualities and structure of a paragraph.  We created a checklist to reflect our knowledge.  We then dissected the question, and discussed the elements of the text necessary to engage with the question.  After this point, we worked together to begin writing.  We wrote on the whiteboard, allowing us to make changes easily.  Once we were happy with a sentence students wrote it in their books.

I found it quite challenging to (a) communicate all elements of my thinking clearly, and (b) to ask sufficiently clear questions for students to bring their knowledge to the task.  I think, however, I eventually got the hang of it.  I found it helpful to shift between open and closed questions, depending on students’ previously demonstrated skill in a particular area.  I also found it useful to refer students to previously created glossaries, and to colour-code elements of our response so that students could visually trace the core argument.  Both my students and I also enjoyed using our ‘workings column’ where we put potentially relevant quotes, techniques and phrases for later reference.  This latter strategy was also a great way of validating and exploring students’ contributions.

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