How wonderful it is to sit back and watch learning happen. My students are working science fiction stories to go with our Unit on health and the human body. They have to incorporate the real facts and science into a story. We are using this to work on writing a realistic setting, how to write dialogue in our writing, and powerful words that help the reader visualize the story. That is the explicit instruction that I lead. However, I decided to try something different, something that I'm sure many teachers have done before, but something that I have never included in my writing instruction. This time they are co-writing their stories with a partner.
As I sit and listen I hear the items that I expecting to hear from our joint sessions; they are discussing the setting, they are examining their dialogue, and they are debating over which word is more powerful. However, there is more happening then just the items I wanted them to discuss. They are talking about tenses, punctuation, verb-adjective relationships, transitions, and adverbs of frequency (those are just the few I noted in the last minute I was listening). They are teaching each other.
I have no idea why it took me so long to try this. I always assumed that writing was an individual endeavor (and I will do individual stories again in the future), but now the power of the collective writing voice is too strong for me to go back. Also, using googledocs, we can have two students on computers next to each other, talking to each other will both editing the same document. Tomorrow, we are going to swap stories and have somebody else edit our work.
This was a big day for me. I realized how if given the right circumstances, and the an engaging task, just how much kids will take the learning on themselves, and just how valuable that dialogue of doing is. I will focus on the three main points that I am making explicit, and I will let them deal with the rest.