Monday, November 9, 2015

Writer's Circle: Argument Peer Response

Understanding that other perspectives exist besides their own, can be tough for students to grasp. When writing argument on a topic they are passionate about, students often fail to see that other viewpoints exist. Writer's circle provides the opportunity to see beyond their own point of view. 

When my students wrote argument pieces, I not only wanted them to give feedback  but to be exposed to as many topics as possible. I wanted students to see what others thought and to share their own thoughts on the topic. I  wanted my writers to see that they might not be on target with their argument- there are other perspectives they haven't thought about or additional ideas supporting their argument that hadn't crossed their minds.  Writer's Circle is powerful and allows for all of the above.

How it Works: 
Students take their argument piece and a sheet of paper with their name on it to the circle.
 I group desks in one large circle and everyone sits with their paperwork.
I tell students they will pass their piece of paper with their argument piece to the left until I tell them to stop.
I do several "pass" commands to get their piece away from the besties they are likely sitting by.
When I tell students to stop, they have about 10 minutes to read and respond to the writing.
They are not permitted to comment on grammar, spelling, citations, etc. They are only allowed to agree or disagree and share why. They can choose the entire argument or one point of the argument to discuss.
We do several rounds- as many as time permits- and usually students get their paperwork back with about 3-4 student comments.

What happens next: 
Students take the comments to their own desk the next day and re-read them. Their goal is to analyze whether there is some perspective they haven't thought about. Some angle that they need to further investigate. This might be a pro or a con- it might agree with their stance or not- but having feedback like this helps students to really experience others viewpoints outside their own.

- Students get various viewpoints outside of their own.
- You can hear a pin drop! Students LIKE to read others work and they enjoy responding with their own viewpoint.
- Writers can revise their work, do further research and are often heard commenting, "I didn't think of it that way!"
And that's the point!

Writer's Circle is perfect for argument writing! There is no way students can be fully prepared for the argument topics they might be faced with on the state test,  so exposing them to various researched argument ideas provides some background for them. Beyond that- FAR beyond the test- is that students need to understand that their viewpoint is not the only one and that argument is powerful to get our messages out there- that maybe we might change something as a result.

Below are various snapshots of student comments to Argument papers done in a Writer's Circle:

Top Photo Attribution: photo credit: <a href="">Idea selection</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>