Back in August, I posted about the changes I’d made to Writing Goals for the Classroom. I also mentioned that they’d probably change again (and hopefully improve) based on student feedback and personal growth.
Well… It’s time! We’ve adjusted the format from the first six weeks quite a few times, so I’ll walk you through each six weeks so far to show you what worked, what didn’t work, and what we changed. (Yes, I do mean “we” — student feedback is imperative to our process!)
1st Six Weeks
What worked: I could already see the power of breaking down their goals using the writing process. Students are taking more time to work through each step, and they’re benefiting from the trial and error that the writing process allows.
What didn’t work: As you can see, the section next to “Student Total” no longer says “Teacher Total” because I didn’t like the extra work I had to do. Using “Teacher Comments” has been beneficial to grading and student reflection, which was my goal anyway.
Student Feedback: The biggest request after this six weeks: “I need room to comment on my score in the rubric.” You’ll see this change reflected in the following six weeks.
2nd Six Weeks
What worked: We were able to have multiple student-teacher conferences this six weeks, which allowed students to work on a second skill for improvement. I saw more improvement as it relates to the writing process, with students trying new formats in their writer’s notebook as we learned them in class.
What didn’t work: Some students were still having trouble with where to put entries on the goal sheet, so we had to spend a bit more time re-addressing this and working with peers to help them better understand the Bucket System.
Student Feedback: “I need help coming up with ideas for brainstorms and drafts.” — We already had a document in Google Classroom with student-generated prompts, so we added to the list to include a slide show with different types of prompts. Some of them are styles I found on Twitter!
3rd Six Weeks
What worked: Students utilized the prompts in order to have something to work on during their writing time in class. They liked having several options, and they continue to enjoy the option of writing whatever they want.
What didn’t work: Student-teacher conferences did not go as well as planned this six weeks. I need to find a different way to meet with students in a timely manner so they get feedback that will help them achieve their goals.
Student Feedback: “Mrs. Houser, we could really use a way to help us keep track of goals.” — Several students asked about ways to help them with completing goals in a timely manner and keeping track of their goals.
We discussed this issue and determined that a weekly goal tracker would be helpful, so that change is reflected in the following six weeks.
“I’m still having trouble with revising. Is there a checklist I could use?” — Well… Let me think… Of course! Due to this feedback, we created a checklist that takes students through the entire writing process for different formats of writing. So far, students have used the slide show to help them when needed.
Our slide show for the Writing Process is broken up into Buckets to match what we’re doing in our notebooks, too!
4th Six Weeks
What worked: The personal weekly goals were a great addition. Several students said they were able to stay on track better and complete their goals in the time given.
The slide show helped students improve the writing process and focus on skills they need for different kinds of writing. Some students started trying other formats, too, which is a plus!
What didn’t work: Even though the personal weekly goals was a great idea, many students requested changes to it (see feedback below). I also noticed that students were writing a lot more poems than I would expect, but only because they wanted to make it through the writing process with a small piece (adjusting this for next six weeks).
Student Feedback: At the end of this six weeks I conducted a Writing Goals Survey for students to tell me their opinions about writing goals.
- Do you generally reach all your goals? (96% said they get most, all, or over their goals.)
- When do you write? (during the class period, free time at school, at home, etc.)
- Tell me one thing about the goals you enjoy. Their answers:
-“That you can set your goal, not the teacher.” ~23CI1-14
-“I like the last sentence where I can tell you where I struggled and where I succeeded.” ~23KR2-16
-“I enjoy that we can write whatever we want.” ~23SG3-8
-“I enjoy the planner that is on the back.” ~23PG2-8
-“Bingo is helping me write more.” ~23KL1-20
- Tell me one thing about the goals that isn’t working for you and how you would change it. (Suggestions, too…) Their answers:
-“More room for Bucket 1 since there’s not room for brainstorms and outlines.” ~23KC1-8
-“Bigger section for weekly goals and a checklist.” ~several students
-“I need a day by day calendar” ~23ZW7-30
-“I think we should have a peer check our conference goal as we go.” ~23MP2-14
-“I’d like a topic at the beginning of each week to try.” ~23CC1-4
-“I think put days aside or maybe a few minutes for us to get/give help.” ~23MB2-2
-“Give time to do more writing in class so we can get help from peers or you.” ~23CC2-4
- Did you use the weekly goals section to your benefit this six weeks? (61.5% said yes.)
–The ones who didn’t use it either said that they didn’t need it, or they said that they needed it to change.
And…. Now the 5th Six Weeks
Changes — I don’t want to discourage poetry, so I’m not going to tell anyone not to write them. However, I am going to discourage only using the full writing process for poetry, so I’ve adjusted the craft goal to include trying a new format.
They requested a section for outlines, so that is also added on the front page. (Students were excited about that today when they received their new goal sheets — I know, excited!)
In previous grading periods I gave them a minimum for each bucket and they could set their goal at or above that. However, I noticed that writing quality started declining as goal numbers started rising.
The solution: don’t set a minimum.
We discussed quality of work versus the quantity of entries today before setting goals. Each student located their best and their worst quality of work in their writer’s notebook, and then we compared and contrasted them. Listen to what I heard:
“It’s easier to do better when I like the topic.”
“I spent more time on this one, but I only spent about five minutes on this one.”
“I was just trying to reach my goal. I did this other one at the beginning of the six weeks when I had more time.”
“I never got around to finishing this.”
Today, students set their own personal goals based on quality instead of quantity. Don’t get me wrong, they still have a number to complete, but we all know goal-setting is about having an end in sight.
I’m excited to see how they do with quality writing this six weeks… I’ll let you know!
Planning Calendar — Middle school is a difficult time for students, especially when it comes to planning — I expanded the mini section to a full page with everything they requested.
They also have accountability partners to work with in order to keep themselves on track this six weeks. They were eager to meet with their partners and set achievable goals for the first week!
I’m interested to see how they do with this calendar. Not every student wanted/needed it, so I’m curious to see which ones utilize it and how they make it work.
What do you think? Have you used writing goals in your classroom? Do you adjust based on student feedback?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Feel free to check out the following resources: