Yesterday I attended an RtI conference so I had my students in my absence type up their free writes so I had nice written versions of them. Today when I got back I handed each group a big sheet of paper (I have a big honking roll) their typed up freewrites and instructions to cut and paste their typed up outlines onto the big paper. If parts of their outlines still needed to be typed up, they should copy their outline in pen (or sharpie) onto the big paper in English. The finished product ended up looking like this:
You’ll see here a messy mix of lines, printouts and notes. Just how I like it. Because the scope of this project makes it easy for people to loose track of where they are, I can look at the above and see exactly what needs to still be done. For things that are typed up, I’m happy with it. If they have things written in pen, then that’s where they need to work next. Now when it comes time to do another freewrite I’ll just tell people to go look at their poster hung on the wall and see what still needs work.
This is also useful as a means of getting an idea of what needs a little bit of expansion. In the following outline, most everything was all typed up, but some areas needed a little work yet.
If some descriptions look a little thin, I just put a black asterix next to that part so they can tell what still needs doing.
After having done this, I think that for the next round of freewrites and re-writes, I won’t have them type up the descriptions yet, but we’ll just cut out the freewrites they do in hand directly to the wall. This way we can fill our holes better and move along more quickly to the next stage, which involves getting pictures to illustrate these mini-episodes. On Monday we’ll walk in, pull the posters off the wall and have each group start with a five minute free-write to quickly patch the narrative holes. Then I’ll have them sit down and figure out what pictures they’ll need to take on Tuesday, what props they’ll need to bring, and who can bring a camera. If we have any time left, we’ll grab a couple cameras I’ll have onhand and start taking pictures right away.
If this sounds like a lot of work, it is, but the work is done much more on their part than mine; my job is to be a project manager that keeps everything moving along. The real concern I have is not so much the effort this requires, but rather the time taken away from CI discussions while doing them. For myself, anyways, I have answered that question in two ways. On the one hand, the product of these stories when finished is a very useful tool for me to use with my students of all levels next year, where I can get several days of compelling reading in because it is student generated. On the other hand, the process is very very satisfying for the students because they see what they can actually do with the language and pay it forward for other classes down the road. My graduating seniors like being able to “leave their mark” on this project, and I like to give a copy of these stories to my graduating seniors as a parting gift. At this time of year I’m less concerned about using every last minute as I am about creating an indelible final impression of the school year that sticks with people.