Thursday, December 10, 2009

Writing Coaches

Well, this week we're in the final days of finishing our essays. These are always the messiest times, with students scattered all through the stages of the writing process. I'm helping students edit, work through their revisions, getting a few set up on our classroom computers, and helping students get started with final drafts.

This is when I need writing coaches. Every class has a few students with an intuitive feel for the writing process, a few students who can pull great writing out of their peers. I call on these students when I feel stretched, and they never disappoint. In one class, one student helped a girl who had been absent for several days, coaching her through the revising checklist. In another class, a boy helped a student to add details to a body paragraph that was a little thin.

The entire process works more smoothly if there is a specific outcome. "Help Alicia with her piece" is not nearly as effective as, "Alicia is having trouble with an introduction--could you show yours to her, and help her to create one?" After a few minutes, both students are proud of what they have accomplished.

And, today, there were two students that were just as frustrated with me as I was with them. For some reason, the lessons hadn't clicked, and their rough drafts were muddled. I had worked with each individually, but they seemed sullen and resistant. Enter the writing coach! Sometimes another student can explain things in a way that makes sense to struggling students.

Writing coaches are not necessarily the best writers in a class. But they are always the students who ask questions. Writing coaches are honestly interested in writing, and really care about what their peers have to say. Having students who are able to help one another makes the writing classroom a better place.

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