Writing Your Revision Feedback
One of the ways we help moms in our primary writing course, The Writer’s Jungle Online, is to give them an understanding of how to affirm the good and enhance the weak in their children’s writing. Because the classes are in an online format, all of our communication with parents is through writing. We read the work done by your children and then we comment on it by posting our thoughts almost line by line.
A parent can then print the post and have a concrete record of the steps to take to improve the writing with the child. The written revision notes, in turn, provide a model for future interactions with your child when you are on your own.
Part of what makes the class feedback so powerful for both you and your child is that it is thorough. It goes through the draft systematically:
- asking questions of the text,
- noting clever uses of language or insightful ideas,
- identifying the places where a few more thoughts, words or sentences would expand the meaningfulness of the content,
- noting which part of the piece might serve as an opening hook, and so on.
A parent can read this feedback and take it, evaluate it, then make use of it with her child. But she can also print it and hand it to the child to be read together as a way to discuss editorial feedback. In this case, the pair has triangled in a third party and it is easier to evaluate the comments together, sitting on the same side of the fence than when it is mother directly to child.
Still, once class is over, some moms revert to the habit of quick, verbal feedback that is offered right as the draft is finished, with little time to pause and enjoy the original act of creation. Other moms, though, have discovered that they can approximate the experience of that nurturing environment by emulating that process!
One way to do this is to always type the draft/freewrite into a Word doc. Then, later in the day when you are alone away from your child, give it the kind of attention a KWB instructor might. Go line by line looking for those places you can offer affirmation and positive feedback. Type that in, including smilie faces and exclamation points! As you find places that show insufficient development, ask for more. You can write, “I love this. I’d love to hear more about it. What else happened that day?” When you stumble across an alliterative word pair, highlight it saying, “Great repeated use of the “h” sound here!”
As you write the feedback, you’ll become calmer and you’ll also discover that your eye when you read naturally gravitates to error rather than strength. But giving your child’s paper enough respect to write your feedback, you’ll slow down and become more aware at the successes within it; the makings of a good paper.
When you have typed up your comments right in between all the original writing (using a different color or italics or bold), print it out. Get some tea, cookies and a pencil. Then sit with your child over the yummy treats and read it together. Talk about the feedback you give and allow your child to offer you his or her perspective on what you wrote. This kind of discussion enables you to use the paper as the triangling force so that you and your child remain on the “same side” of the discussion.
For those who really want to see this process in action, I strongly urge you to take The Writer’s Jungle Online. It is repeatedly the key step in the process to becoming an excellent writing coach and ally for your kids.
When I’m asked whether it is better to purchase The Writer’s Jungle (an excellent resource for the self-directed, to be sure) or to take the online class, if you have to choose between them, I always recommend the class. It is the best way for you to become fluent in the skills of coaching writing.