I admit I struggle with trying to explain to students why revisions are necessary. I think this is mainly because no one bothered to explain to me why essay revisions are important either.
As an adult, I can logic my way around it. The first piece of writing I make is like a skeleton, just there for me to fill in with more detail and support, and usually a mess in terms of spelling and grammar. But how do I explain that to students?
When I was a floating first-year teacher, I struggled with this. I read some of their essays, which had good bones, but needed some work. Some students had good writing habits, but like all systems, some students had gotten away with writing habits that hurt my heart a bit—like thinking a single paragraph answer would be sufficient for an essay.
And I remember what it was like to be a kid. I sure as heck didn’t like it when teachers marked up my papers. I wanted validation from my teachers, not annihilation via the red pen.
So, I had to figure out how to get student buy-in on essay revision, without destroying their nascent self-esteem.
Collaboration seems to be the end-all solution for everything nowadays. But for this issue, I couldn’t see any other answer. I wanted students to get some critiques, but not from me. So peer collaboration seemed to be the only avenue.
Maybe if I set clear guidelines on acceptable responses, and worked with the class to set up group norms for the activity I would be able to solve part of my problem. Students listen more to each other than their teachers, anyway.
Therefore, the activity would have to be a group activity.
I played around with the idea of stations before. But honestly, it seemed a bit juvenile to me. Could it be that simple to get students engaged and get some buy-in? In high school?
I tested out the station idea with essay revision, breaking down the process into aspects that I felt were important, like the thesis statement, claims, evidence, commentary, and conclusion.
And it worked like a dream.
By having students work in stations, it chunked down the process into sections that were more tangible to students. My stragglers were able to ask for help and focus on a single task at a time instead of being overwhelmed by the whole essay at once, and the students who were above grade level got to reinforce their understanding of the concepts by helping identify ways to improve others’ essays.
How it works
This station activity promotes active learning and movement in the classroom while reinforcing the C-E-R framework. Use this station activity in order to chunk the revision process and strengthen your students writing skills with peers and get students moving in the classroom. Using stations, a teacher can also pinpoint which area might be a class’s weak point, and provide additional help at that particular station. Teachers can also use the activity for targeted assistance for students needing additional assistance.
Stations allow your students to focus intensely on a single task for a short period of time.
Included in this are two student handouts, station cards, station directions, how to use, and letter to the teacher.
Station 1: Thesis Statement
Students often struggle with writing a strong thesis statement. This station allows students to collaborate with their peers in order to strengthen and construct the strongest thesis for their essay.
Station 2: Claim
Claims, or topic sentences, help students organize their writing and major points. In this station students look for all claims in their essay and determine if they are strong and relevant to their thesis.
Station 3: Evidence
Evidence is where students pull support from the text or media to support their claims. In this station, students make sure that their evidence is strong for their essay and collaborate with peers to determine if stronger evidence in the text exists to support their claim.
Station 4: Commentary
Commentary is where students expand on their claim and justify how their evidence indicates their claim. This is where many students get stuck summarizing the events of the text. Using this station, students can analyze their essays to determine if they are merely summarizing or giving meaningful commentary.
Station 5: Conclusion
Conclusions are often overlooked as a restatement of the introduction. In this station, students will make sure that they have a mic-drop moment in their essay.