Assessing the writing survey to plan for a new year

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I’ll be honest, I was very nervous about what I would find when I opened up the writing surveys, because the beginning of the year survey revealed two things: most of my kids hated to write, and most of my kids were sure that they would continue to hate to write. But, hooray hooray, not once was this hatred mentioned in the end of the year surveys.  No one really spoke of loving to write, but they all seemed surprised that it wasn’t quite as awful as they’d expected.  Score one for Mrs. Smith.

What changed in the way you choose what to write about this year?

Not surprisingly, almost all my students mentioned choice of topics and exposure to many writing genres two big changes in the way they chose to write.  In response after response, my kids spoke about the importance of getting to write about topics that mattered to them, and how this had given them an opportunity to discover why writing matters.

I used to make essays in 5th grade. Just essays. All the time. I really didn’t know there were other types of writing than just essays until 6th grade. Now I learned about many different types of writing and now instead of choosing essays all the time I choose Feature Articles, Poems, Short Stories, and more. My three favorite pieces of writing we did this year was Short Stories, S.O.L, and Memoir.

The way I choose what to write has changed this year because I am definitely choosing more topics that matter to me . Not topics that I just came up with in my head and that I thought may be interesting, but stuff I really cared about.

I became more open and comfortable with writing multiple different genres.

Name two ways in which you have grown as a writer this year.

Once again, the freedom to write in many genres was appreciated.  But, beyond that, my kids learned to see value in developing writing stamina (I am proud to say that they could write for 45 minute stretches by the end of the year, which is pretty darn awesome for 6th. graders), and in the writing process itself – which includes multiple drafts and revision. I loved that many spoke of gaining independence, coming to rely on themselves to understand when and where their work needed revision or elaboration.   Many saw the purpose of writing plans, and all appreciated the feedback I provided.  Consistent feedback is one of the hardest things to make time for in a middle school setting when you have so many students, but my student surveys drove home the message that this was time well worth spending.

I have grown as a writer this year because I have written in different styles of writing, and because we wrote A LOT this year.

I have done more revision of my work this year, and I have improved in editing my writing, and adding details and stretching out the story. I also have also learned to develop more complex ideas.
This year I have learned to be more independent, and more able to revise my own work.
1) I have grown to realize that it is possible to change the genre of writing you are doing so that it fits better with the situation. 2) I now go through MANY stages of writing and revision before I turn it in.
I have been able to revise my own work and become a better writer by reading books and getting ideas from books
What changed in your writing habits this year? Be specific and give examples.
I was so happy to learn that my kids loved and valued their weekly Slice of Life writing.  As a writer, I know that that weekly discipline is important to the way I notice and make note of the world around me – knowing that I will have to write a Slice of Life every week just makes me live a more observant, and therefore more writerly, life.  So, score two for Mrs. Smith that her kids felt the same way.  Most spoke of the habit of planning their writing, and many learned that revision was a natural and necessary part of the writing process.
I wrote a lot more than last year, and therefor, my writing improved. Writing an SOL every week helped me a lot.
What changed in my writing habits this year was that rather than websites I used books for research more often, I wrote more often, I was more decisive in what I would write about, and I procrastinated less.
Before, I would plan my writing, but now I have learned to plan my stories in more depth. This helps me A LOT because when I am having trouble writing a story, I can look back at my plan to help me.
What surprised you about your year of writing in sixth grade?
Most of my kids were surprised by their own abilities to write in many different ways – that writing is flexible and therefore empowering. I think that the answers to this question were the most moving for me to read; my kids learned what they were capable of.  What more can a teacher ask for?
I am a better writer than I thought I was, and I like it more than I used to. Writing well is also much more work than I had thought. Now I can try new styles of writing, and experiment with what I do. I can have fun with it.
I was surprised at how easily writing came to me by the end of sixth grade. I used to hate it and try to avoid it because it was hard for me to find a topic and write a page about it, but now I can pick a topic quickly, and I can write pages and pages about it!
What do you know about yourself as a writer now that you didn’t know when you began sixth grade?
I asked this question because I knew that none of my kids thought of themselves as writers when the year began, and this was an intentional teaching point and goal for me all year.   The responses to this question also moved me to tears (what can I say? thinking about my no-longer-sixth-graders makes me tear up, because their year with me is now a thing of the past) because what they had to say was unexpected.
I know that I have to keep practicing if I want to be a writer .
I know that I am a better writer than I thought I was. I know that I really like writing poetry, because I am more free to do whatever I want. I don’t have to follow a format. I can be creative, follow or break rules, and just be free to let my ideas go.
I know now that I am a pretty good writer and it takes practice.
I can’t put myself inside limits and I need to expand.
I’m a good writer. I thought I was a terrible writer because I didn’t write a lot last year.
I didn’t know that i liked poems and was good at them. It was a new talent in writing that I found this year, and really amazed and excited me.
I can write more than I think.
Something that I learned about myself is that when I am really passionate about something, I tend to write well on the topic.
I developed a passion for writing memoirs. I like writing memoirs because it helps me relive my memories from before and all the fun and sad times I had.
What are some things you wish we had done in writing workshop this year? Why?
The answers to this question vary greatly from year to year, they reflect (as is to be expected) the personality of a particular group of students in a particular year.  This year’s class wanted more time to free write, and write poetry.  Poetry? That made my heart sing!
I wish we did more pieces like the one about Mrs. Smith coming into the classroom with weird clothes and a bag of something. It was fun to imagine what could be in the bag and what happened the rest of the day.
Free time writing. I feel like we just need time to write about something and not get graded on it.
I think that it would’ve been cool if we had tried to do something like a graphic novel and created it on google slides or draw. This is really outside of the box, but students would like it.
I wish we had written more poetry. Poetry allows the writer to be creative and free.
What were TWO of the most helpful ways in which Mrs. Smith helped you become a better writer?
I hoped to learn what my kids thought was helpful to them, as opposed to my own ideas about what I could do to move them along as writers.  In typical sixth grade fashion, they let me know what worked i pretty blunt terms.  The mini lessons I had labored over proved to be winners, proving that sixth graders value instruction almost as much as fun.  Writing conferences and mentor texts were also appreciated, as well as feedback and the practice of giving compliments.
You taught mini lessons which showed me how to do one specific thing. Sometimes I was confused about something, but the mini lessons helped me understand it better.
All of the comments you gave me/ advice and mini lessons.
Mrs. Smith commented on our writing and sent it back to us with suggestions. She pushed me constantly to do more, even when I handed in something that I thought was well written, I learned that I could always do more.
TWO ways Mrs. Smith helped me this year is by first making me really notice my very bad spelling problem. Two Mrs. Smith really helped me with my revision and learning how to slow down and go back and read over my work so it was my best.
One was definitely when she gave me feed back on my writing, and the second one was when she taught us using the mini lessons.
1. By going through the editing process with me on all genres. It pushed me to become a better writer. 2.By having writing conferences with me whenever I needed help or I was stuck while drafting.
I always feel that I learn more from my students than I teach them.  Certainly, their honest and forthright answers help me understand where I need to focus my time and attention in the coming year.  Teaching writing workshop sometimes feels like an impossible task – so many kids, so many voices to nurture and nudge forward.  It is a daunting task to keep up with each student and give the consistent feedback necessary to maintain momentum and growth.  My students’ writing surveys showed me what I needed to know: they want to be writers, they need my instruction to honor that desire.

10 thoughts on “Assessing the writing survey to plan for a new year

  1. Tara, after almost a week of PD around writing workshop, this info is very relevant. I love the remarks related to choice and freedom to write.

  2. Wow! You climbed a mountain with these kids this past year, and they know it! From years of teaching writing to college freshman (who were very poor writers), I know how exhausting this work can be. But I also know how exhilarating it can be for the instructor to get these results and for the students to feel so confident. Well done, teacher!

  3. I appreciate how you didn’t rush to process the survey results. Sitting on them and reflecting is so important and I often rush to just see the results.

  4. This is so inspirational. The work you do to get your students to this place of deep understanding in simply amazing. This doesn’t just happen.Only with very intentional practice does this kind of response possible. Oh to be in your classroom! Lucky kids!

  5. I love the message your students send to all teachers, choice and feedback are critical components of an effective writing workshop. Thank you for sharing!

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