Writing Workshops

READ-AROUND GROUPS for Writing Workshop

In Read Around Group (RAG) sessions, students bring a completed early draft to class and sit in circles of five or six students. Review the rubric to remind the students of the criteria on which their writing is to be evaluated. It may be a rubric you create together, an adaptation of one in your textbook, or one you download from the Internet.3

The students write their names on the rubric and lay it on top of their drafts. One student from each group collects all the drafts and hands them to you. Now distribute the drafts to other groups so that none of the students in the group is reading the paper of anyone else in their group (Group A, gets Group B papers, B gets C, etc.). This way a student is less likely to be distracted by watching how classmates respond to his/her paper. During the RAG, each student reads five or six papers, but responds to only two. Do not allow those without a draft to sit in on a RAG.

Fairness suggests that paper-less students sit out and use the time to work on their drafts. First, it is useful to give those who are behind on their own writing class time to catch up. Second, if a student in a group does not have a paper to be read each round, then someone else has to “sit” out because of too few papers.

No need to worry about students coming unprepared the next time. Most are be ready for the next RAG because they want to see what others have written and also want to get peer feedback and suggestions for their own revisions. Curiosity is a great motivator.

Once the groups are formed and have their stack of papers, the group leader distributes the drafts to members in the group, and you set a timer for three minutes which usually is enough time to read the 2-4 pages of these early drafts. Students read the first paper until the timer goes off, then pass the paper to the right and read the second paper, and finally the third paper and fourth until the timer goes off again. After the fourth pass, set the timer for six minutes.

This time, the students read and comment on the content of the paper. On this fifth pass, again set the timer for six minutes and the students read and comment on the structure and style. By this time the students have learned a great deal about their classmates, about the ways their peers have responded to the prompts, about the problems that arise when one makes grammar, usage, spelling, and mechanical errors, and equally important, about the quality of the pool of writing in which their own papers are to be read.

While students are reading the first two or three drafts, you can walk around the classroom, rubber-stamp the written drafts, and record in your grade book a check for the students who have their drafts ready on this due date. Afterwards, during the longer reading times, have a few moments to confer with those who have come unprepared and can offer suggestions to get then back on track with their writing.

At the end of the RAG session, each leader collects his or her group’s papers and hands them to you. Return them along with the completed rubric to the students who wrote them. Spend ten minutes or so, soliciting from the students what they noticed about the strengths of their papers, and inviting their suggested strategies for improving them.

Use the remainder of the period for students to read the comments from their peers, and then to plan how to revise their papers. If time remains in the period, quickly scan and then stamp the plans the students have made to improve their papers. This simply creates a record that the student has received feedback and has outlined a plan for revising.

Assign the students to have their final drafts ready for you to read two or three days later. During the intervening days, schedule in-class writing time for students to work on their revisions. Then, you can meet individually with students who are not sure what steps they should take to make their next draft better.

Do not feel frustrated if you find yourself adjusting length of time for needed for revision. Ask the students. If they feel confident and can quickly complete a revision they are eager to have you read, set a short deadline. If they are working diligently, but believe they need more time, extend the deadline. Thankfully, the students become personally attached to these papers and want you to see their best work. Do both them and you a favor. Create a schedule that is flexible enough to allow them to revise. Well written papers are a pleasure to read and take less time to grade.

Excerpt from from my book,

Teaching Middle School Language Arts: Incorporating Twenty-First  Century Literacies (2010) p. 259-261
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8 thoughts on “WRITING WORKSHOP – RAGS

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