Saturday, October 17, 2015

Final Draft Reflections

This week[end] I am grading my students' final draft reflections. In this assignment, the student must reflect on the writing process they used to write their essays, the comments and feedback they received and the changes they have made in their writing. They post this on their blogs.
Most of my students did a fantastic job on the various levels they are currently operating in. I was satisfied when they made any improvements on understanding that their writing choices have consequences, as in audience reaction. I'm also happy to read that many students understood that writing demands thoughtful reflection.
Even a beagle feels the need to reflect through writing
I think this part of the writing process is most important, and I actually weigh this at 25% of the essay grade, in equal measure to the final draft itself.  Here are a few things I noticed in the reflections:

1. I had more than a few students reflect on how feedback in previous courses was meaningless because they were never able to revise their writing based on that feedback; this is something I had been chewing on based on some research I came across.

2. I also want to help my students improve as peer-reviewers and peer-editors, as more than a few mentioned that their peer reviewers were lazy and unhelpful. Guiding them to improving this skill will not only help them when they are reviewing their own papers, but it will help me as an instructor.

3. Many students reflected about how helpful it was to meet with me one-on-one and how this was a turning point in the essay process. I'm excited to be available to them, but I want to be very careful about how much they depend on me. I keep repeating to myself: "STUDENT AUTONOMY"!

With her permission, here is one student's (Valeria Rodriguez) reflection on her own writing:

I always had the mentality that writing was a talent that could not be acquired or improved; rather it could only be exploited. Before this assignment I viewed writing as an improvised speech. There was only one opportunity to do it without preparing for it. Some were just fortunate enough to write so eloquently. This was all because I was never introduced to the world of shitty first drafts, deep reflection, the process of writing a paper and the thought and preparation that every writer, including the best ones go through. In the process of creating this final paper I was able to reflect on my writing, discover my own potential and consequently improve as a writer.
Throughout this paper I discovered the “delete” button on my computer. My greatest weakness as a writer is my rhetoric. I could not find a way to say what I wanted to say. With this paper I realized that it is better to write non-sense and try to get to a point than not write at all and never even make a point. After all, my words were not carved in stone; they could actually be deleted or edited. This really made me think of my past essays and all the possible sentences and ideas I left out due to fear of making a mistake. For the first time, I began to write and was left with over eight paragraphs of ideas on paper and not on my mind. Peer editing allowed me to narrow down my paper and keep the most important points. As I read my paper I could not determine what to leave out and what to keep because in my eyes I made a connection between every single paragraph. However, as I read what my peers had to say about my paper I realized that I could get the same point across with less and better words.
Never in my twelve years of school have I heard of active reflection when writing a paper. Reflection was always after a process and never part of the process. By actively reflecting on every idea I was able to create an honest paper. I knew I was attracted to personal accounts, but I never realized how the authors managed to make their paper so engaging and sound so genuine. Many comments on my rough draft were related to reflection. This reminded me that I had to go beyond the surface and touch every bottom of every topic. Reflection is like squeezing a wet sponge. A sponge is dripping the minimum amount of water or information. However, as soon as I make an effort and squeeze it, I am able to obtain and see how much more was inside of it. I must squeeze every topic and gain my audience trust. Reflecting makes me think about why I do what I do. When I found a reason behind an idea I could more easily explain and give evidence making my paper trustworthy. Reflection must be done actively and individually rather than after the paper and as an overall. Reflection does not have a rule where is specifies that it must be done after finishing a paper. Before this assignment, reflection would have never been on my to-do list.
Not expecting much from myself as a writer, I will admit that I never imagined improving my writing skills. Looking at my “fake” grade from the rough draft only validated what I though of myself as a writer and my potential. However, for once I was able to see specific comments and compliments that helped me attack my essay with a specific direction. Writing was not at all like an improvised speech. On the contrary, it has to be a paper of several drafts, excessive editing and questioning all ideas. I am proud to see my improvement as a writer. My new grade is not based on my talent, but my effort and the progress I have made over the months.

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