Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Letting Them Think

I have used Jane Schaffer's style analysis plans for years with my AP English Literature students. I do not promote formatted writing instruction as a whole, but I am fortunate to have students who have done so much writing before they get to me that we can really use this structure as a tool. Some students find it is just what they need to corral their ideas, and they end up with really powerful proofs that finally go from start to finish well. Others find the mere requirement of LOADS of textual support finally makes them do this (I hope I'm not the only English teacher who has students -- even juniors and seniors -- at times turn in writing with NO support -- their adolescent minds just wig out every now and then!).

What I have worked hard to do better each year is helping my students really see it as a tool and not the only way to write. This year, as I am discussing student-centered learning with my PLP group at the same time that I am finishing my Schaffer unit, it was an aligning of the stars for me. I threw out the assignment I have always ended this unit with -- writing an essay (and a VERY long essay at that) that follows exactly the Shaffer structure to "show me you can do it before I let you break the rules" -- and created an open rubric for us to create together for an essay where they show me they know this is a tool and use it.

Here is my rubric. I am very excited to complete it with my class today -- to talk directly about how they can use the tools they have learned to create writing that speaks for them.


  1. So how did it go? I'm curious...

  2. It went very well -- the essays showed they were thinking about how to best prove what they wanted to say. They were oddly LONG to grade -- I was trying to give them full feedback for this first free attempt. Grading papers is a bear sometimes, even when I like what I am reading!