The following is excerpted from Teach Writing Well: How to Assess Writing, Invigorate Instruction, and Rethink Revision! by Ruth Culham.
Wallets are a commonplace item. But even though the contents may be similar among individuals—credit cards, IDs, cash, photos—the particulars will vary. I have a driver’s license from Oregon, for instance, and you likely have one from another state—but we both have driver’s licenses. Wallets are handy for storing things you need to make a purchase, board a plane, show a picture of a grandchild, share insurance information, and so on.
Using a Writing Wallet for writing practice is a simple, straightforward way to engage students in revision.
I propose that you have students create a Writing Wallet for the same purpose: as a simple storage place where they can hold a small set of rough-draft writing pieces until they need them. No two students will have exactly the same papers, because each composes differently, but they will collect a similar set of papers to store. These papers become practice pieces they can revise for one key quality at a time as you conduct specific focus lessons on writing craft.
The benefits of the Writing Wallet are simple. Instead of using worksheets or prepackaged materials, students apply what they are learning to their own writing in guided practice. Each student has a personal portfolio of work that reflects his or her current level of writing skill. If a student is struggling to form a sentence, for instance, his pieces in the Writing Wallet will reflect that. And if another student is writing fluently and with skill, her pieces will reflect her ability as well. Both students will need to revise but at different levels.
In the Writing Wallet, students are working on pieces that reflect what they know and writing about topics that they’ve chosen and are interested in; no other tests or placement decisions are needed. They have their own personalized, differentiated works in progress, just waiting to be called into revision service. The pieces can be worked on again and again, giving the student an insider’s view of what revision should really look and feel like.
Student Writing Becomes the Heart of Instruction
Using a Writing Wallet for writing practice is a simple, straightforward way to engage students in revision using their own work as the resource for their practice. The student’s writing becomes the heart of instruction and learning as you fold it into the recursive nature of the writing-to-assessment-to-instruction-to-revision-to-learning process. The Writing Wallet is a simple, interactive tool that allows students to succeed where worksheets have failed.
To learn more about Teach Writing Well, go here.