Last week, students wrote a first draft of their definition essays and posted it to their blog.
Today, they answered the following questions:
1. What are you trying to say about yourself in this essay?
2. What would you like to improve in your essay? (not spelling/grammar)
3. What questions do you have about the essay?
4. How emotionally connected are you to your topic? Will it bother you if someone is critical? What advice do you have for your partner when they read their essay in order to help you most?
Then they got into the computer lab and made a google doc to which both partners had access. They chose one essay to start revising, and I showed them how to make comments and gave them some guidelines on working together.
What I saw happen:
--students were talking about the structure of the essay and how successful it was
--students giving each other advice and taking it all constructively, not as personal attack
--students enjoying the process of writing together in real time, and couldn't get over how easy it was to save and access work in google drive
--real feedback meant that students were engaging with their own work at a deeper level
--arguments happened, but they were all friendly ("You have to choose: past or present! Which one?" "I can have both!" etc.) and all were productive
--some students had very little written, and many of those students benefitted most from this because they got to explain their idea and have a partner help them put words to it
I'll write about the collaborative humour writing my students did later. But this was pretty revolutionary for us. It's changed the way Andrew and I write professionally, and I can't wait to see the improvement that our students see in their writing as a result of collaborative writing.