Reflective Feedback Loops

Developing as a writer is a journey not a process, but that journey is not a straight line with clear landmarks which is one reason why writing progress is so challenging to teach and assess. My lifelong journey to become a better writer and a better teacher of writers is heavily influenced by my experience as a professional writer. I have always sought to replicate the feedback loops that supported me as both a journalist and novelist, but it was my National Writing Project work that introduced reflection into those loops and that has become the not-so-secret sauce in my classroom.

My Students are Writers

Every time my class meets we begin by writing this simple sentence frame “My name is ___ and I am a writer from ___.” There are multiple benefits to this simple class ritual, but for this post I want to focus the act of writing down the words “I am a writer.” My students write those words every time we meet as a class and then during that class they engage in writing and then share that writing with a supportive community. While the opening ritual and focus on writing have long been a part of my class format, this semester I shifted our reflection practice to include the specific instruction for my students to share their writing story for the week with the community. As with all our writing deliverables, students are prompted both in class and out of class to write about their journey as a writer that week. I love explicitly bookending our week with reminders to students that they are writers. I love focusing my students’ attention on what they are learning about writing and about themselves as writers. I love showing my students that words have power.

My Students have Writing Goals

Through my decades of teaching writing I have always encouraged my students to study their rhetorical situation to better understand the expectations that surround their writing deliverables. Often those conversations have centered around the writing workshop or peer review process. While I have asked my students to set writing goals both separate and as part of the process of asking for feedback, this semester I incorporated their goals into their writing stories to make that connection explicit and I’ve been very pleased with this shift in our thinking as a writing community. The practice of pairing goals with reflection combined with ungrading has offered my students agency over their own writing journey. The powerful combination of setting individual goals and reflecting on their individual journey within a supportive writing community can be transformative for writers at every level.

My Students are on a Journey

I have long argued on this blog and taught in my classes that learning to be a better writer is a journey. This understanding of writing development as a long (and often fraught) journey is one of the primary reasons for my love of the literacy narrative. This semester I have experimented with weaving my students’ literacy narratives throughout both our work and our workshop process to inform a TQE approach to their reading and feedback during workshop. In addition, TQE informs their end-of-unit reflections. Student writing and reflection has long been the focus text of my classroom and building in a process for students to share their thoughts, lingering questions, and epiphanies about their own writing as well as the writing of their peers (and the writers inspiring us from outside our community) is beneficial in so many ways.

My praxis focuses on showing my students the way the ways that writers think and act because my focus is helping students develop as writers while also developing tools they need to continue that growth after they leave my classroom. The journey to become a better writer never ends and I hope to spark joy in that adventure.

Image by sethink from Pixabay

Author: Deanna Mascle
#TeachingWriting and leading #NWP site @ Morehead State (KY): Passionate about #AuthenticWriting, #DeeperLearning, #PBL, #Ungrading, and #HyperDocs.

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