Create a List

List Name

Rename this List
Save to
Back to the Top Teaching Blog
January 11, 2010

Writing Workshops: Using Small Groups to Improve Writing

By Justin Lim

    Most teachers will tell you that one of the most difficult skills to teach is effective writing. Likewise, students will often tell you that writing is what they find the most painstaking. One of the reasons why teaching composition has proven so challenging is that each student is unique in style and ability. In order to address this, many teachers turn to individual conferencing, which while effective, can be an extremely slow process.

    Here's why small group conferencing can be an attractive alternative:

    1. Time - While conferencing with students individually, I realized that I was often addressing the same issues again and again. With the scarcity of time that we have in the classroom already, why not group students who struggle with like issues and conference with them at once?

    2. Peer Evaluations - Something that I regularly have my students do is peer edit. While this is an effective strategy, they need a model for how to evaluate each other. I began to realize that my students have started to become more adept at editing when given time to do so during small group conferencing. Students observe the types of corrections that I make, not necessarily for themselves, but also so that they can make comments about the works of their peers. Of course, if they can effectively evaluate the essays of each other, they're more than likely able to do so for their own.

    3. Critical Thinking - If possible, try to group students who share different opinions. When working on persuasive writing, I've found that dissenting students are great motivators when it comes to considering how to defend and argument! Additionally, students can bounce ideas off of each other and are active in generating ideas.

    4. Student Engagement - One of the toughest challenges in our classrooms today has been the cultivation of passive learners. In a large group setting, most students are content to sit and wait for somebody else to participate. Conferencing in small groups gives you an opportunity to engage students by raising the degree of accountability for participation. While it's true that you could do this with an individual conference, being in a small group can make the activity much less intimidating for a struggling student or an English Language Learner.

    The writing process can be a complex and difficult one. There's no doubt that it has always been a challenging task for students. Hopefully, as we strive to become more effective educators, we can use innovative and effective techniques that will help our students to achieve success!

    What strategies have you found the most effective?

    Warm regards,

    Justin Lim

    Rosemead High School

    El Monte Union High School District

    Most teachers will tell you that one of the most difficult skills to teach is effective writing. Likewise, students will often tell you that writing is what they find the most painstaking. One of the reasons why teaching composition has proven so challenging is that each student is unique in style and ability. In order to address this, many teachers turn to individual conferencing, which while effective, can be an extremely slow process.

    Here's why small group conferencing can be an attractive alternative:

    1. Time - While conferencing with students individually, I realized that I was often addressing the same issues again and again. With the scarcity of time that we have in the classroom already, why not group students who struggle with like issues and conference with them at once?

    2. Peer Evaluations - Something that I regularly have my students do is peer edit. While this is an effective strategy, they need a model for how to evaluate each other. I began to realize that my students have started to become more adept at editing when given time to do so during small group conferencing. Students observe the types of corrections that I make, not necessarily for themselves, but also so that they can make comments about the works of their peers. Of course, if they can effectively evaluate the essays of each other, they're more than likely able to do so for their own.

    3. Critical Thinking - If possible, try to group students who share different opinions. When working on persuasive writing, I've found that dissenting students are great motivators when it comes to considering how to defend and argument! Additionally, students can bounce ideas off of each other and are active in generating ideas.

    4. Student Engagement - One of the toughest challenges in our classrooms today has been the cultivation of passive learners. In a large group setting, most students are content to sit and wait for somebody else to participate. Conferencing in small groups gives you an opportunity to engage students by raising the degree of accountability for participation. While it's true that you could do this with an individual conference, being in a small group can make the activity much less intimidating for a struggling student or an English Language Learner.

    The writing process can be a complex and difficult one. There's no doubt that it has always been a challenging task for students. Hopefully, as we strive to become more effective educators, we can use innovative and effective techniques that will help our students to achieve success!

    What strategies have you found the most effective?

    Warm regards,

    Justin Lim

    Rosemead High School

    El Monte Union High School District

Comments

Share your ideas about this article

Justin's Most Recent Posts
Blog Post
Raising Expectations: Finishing Off Strong

As June approaches, I can always sense the restlessness and anticipation that often creeps up on my students around this time of the year. I always demand the very best effort from my kids and I frequently stress that sometimes the best time to step on the gas is when everybody else is relaxing. In the past, I've been wary of the end of the year drop-off in concentration, so this year, I decided to try something a little different.

By Justin Lim
May 23, 2010
Blog Post
School Culture: Impact on Teacher Motivation
  Have you ever attended a professional development seminar or workshop and found yourself nodding your head as you listened to the speaker point out truth after truth of things that you have seen throughout the educational field? A few weeks ago, I experienced just that as Dr. Anthony Muhammad helped me to better understand why school culture can often be so frustrating for motivated teachers. To sum up one of his key points, technical changes such as scheduling, after school programs, and intervention classes cannot truly impact a school if it has a self-defeating culture. When I say school culture, I'm not talking so much about what goes on with students. I'm talking more about us, the staff.
By Justin Lim
May 10, 2010
Blog Post
End of Year Assessments

When it comes to assessments, there are generally two schools of thought. Some feel that tests are primarily for the purpose of assigning a comprehensive grade, while others see them more as ways to guide instruction.

By Justin Lim
May 2, 2010
My Scholastic

Susan Cheyney

GRADES: 1-2
About Us