Be Careful Not to Miss the Growth of Your Student Writers

May is busy. There isn’t time to do the things already on the schedule, let alone any space to think about the things that don’t have a mandate or a deadline or a requirement attached. 

But if we pause, just long enough to take a deep breath and to sit and breathe again, then we’d remember May is what we are hoping for each August. It is the possibility of growth that  keeps us starting again with each fresh school year.

Tweet: “May is what we are hoping for each August.” Don’t miss the chance to see growth in student writers. 

We became teachers to see this growth. If we’re not careful, we’ll be so busy at the end of the school year that we just might miss it. We might miss the growth.

And if we miss the growth, we miss the celebration, and we miss the reason we start all over each fall. 

May isn’t going to stop being busy, but we can choose to collect the growth in our students.

I’ve put together a Google form for you to use to collect a little data about your students as writers. Remember to save a copy to your drive so you are able to collect and use students’ responses. With the new Google forms, the results are automatically graphed to make seeing the whole picture a little easier. You can delve into individual responses to see specifics for each student.

(This is ideal for grades 3 and up. I’d love to hear how primary teachers adapt this kind of data collection for their students. Please share your ideas in the comments.)

Google form to use for data collection with your student writers.

Once you’ve collected data from your students, you can use it to answer the following reflective practice questions.

  1. Note the perceptions students have of themselves as writers. Positive self-confidence is built through a steady diet of solid feedback, celebrating success and nudging growth. How has your feedback influenced the responses to the first two questions?
  2. Consider any trends in the data about writing process. What stage of the writing process do you support students in the most? What stage of the writing process would you like to be more intentional about teaching to students in the future?
  3. Looking at the categories of writing, what does the data show you about your focus on types of writing? To what type of writing would you like to expand your focus?
  4. Consider the responses regarding writing notebooks. Then consider your own use of writing notebooks, as well as the amount that you share your notebook with students. How does your notebook use compare to students’ responses about notebooks?
  5. Take note of your most popular lessons. Why do you think these lessons were so “sticky”?
  6. Do a variety of mentor texts resonate with your students? How much of an impact did mentor texts play in your writing instruction?
  7. The final question asks students to write a reflection about their learning. Prepare to settle in and linger over their answers. Take note of the primary feelings students have about writing workshop as well as why they feel this way. If their feelings are not positive, consider ways to help shift mindsets about writing.

With the use of technology, it is more convenient than ever to collect student data. Even if you are in a classroom with a single teacher computer, you can still have students take turns to complete the online survey. Once you have collected the data, plan to spend an hour reflecting on your writing instruction with the above guiding questions.

Invite your colleagues or an instructional coach to join you in analyzing your data. You will be able to pinpoint celebrations and begin to make plans to make your writing instruction even better.

If we aren’t already Email Pals, you can snag my weekly newsletter and a link to the data collection tool by completing the form below. (Plus I’ll send you a bonus PDF version if you want to collect data via paper/pencil.)

I’d love to hear how this goes with your students. Please leave a comment and let me know what you’re realizing about your writing instruction.

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    1. Hi Kathy! The teachers who have done the online data collection have really enjoyed the results. The graphs help us reflect on the whole class in an easier way than before.

    2. So much to love about this post, Ruth – most of all, thank you for the reflective thinking you do and the generous way in which you share this with us.

    3. Thanks Tara! I think it is by slowing down that our craft of teaching grows the most. I appreciated the nods you've given to this post. Happy teaching!

    4. We gave students a mixture of questions to choose from (mainly reading but it could be adapted to anything). They chose 4 to answer & 2 that we mandatory then created a Popplet of their thoughts!