Listen to your writers!
What motivates an 8th grader to want to use a revision tool such as Writer’s Workbench or any other writing assistance tool? As I have been using this tool this past semester, I notice that some students will go to the Writer’s Workbench analysis on their own to revise their writing, after being shown and taught how the skill helps their writing; some students will use the tool if it is an expectation of the teacher; and some students will not use the tool to make improvements in their writing at all. What motivates individual students in revising, or not revising, using a writing assistance tool?
As I wrestle with how to get all students 100% engaged in using this tool,(and ultimately how do get students to buy into the revision process) I feel that I probably already know the answer: students have to take ownership of their own writing and WANT to improve. The answer lies in me and how I present the lesson — the writing, the purpose, the authentic audience… In my heart I believe that motivation of the student to use a writing assistance tool freely lies in the approach I am taking to the writing assignment and the value the student sees in the writing. But what do the students think?
For the next semester, I want to know what students think of a writing assistance tool. How do THEY see it as useful? Why are some using it freely to revise and some aren’t? In order to get at these questions, I need to involve my students. Initially, I am planning on interviewing 3 differently motivated students — developing a questionnaire to find out what motivates them to use Writer’s Workbench to analyze and revise their writing. I would expect to find that their motivation lies in something I am doing/not doing with my instruction of writing. I might find some interesting ideas about the writing assistance tool. But I know that if I take the time to talk and listen to my students, I will find out something I did not expect. The knowledge gained from just a few students will help ALL my students be better revisers because it will help ME be a better teacher of writing and revision! Whew!!
Thinking about this next step, Elyse gave me suggestions about having students do a timeline/reflection on how they did an assignment, and then sharing it with other students. I really like this idea of students sharing their approach to writing with others — and their approach and use of the writing assistance tool. For me, a writing assistance tool should foster independence in revision with the users. Hopefully this inquiry will help me move students to independence.