Keeping Student Writing Development Alive in the Social Science Classroom

Sitting at a professional development session with teachers from my charter network, the room-full of fellow 11th grade teachers were discussing how to balance teaching reading and writing in the social science classroom. When one of the teachers told me about The Graide Network, I was immediately intrigued! After talking through how to use the program, I came up with a way to make the most out of my first 10 hours.

Teaching an AP history class can be overwhelming. I have to teach not only reading and writing, but I also have to teach content well enough that students can pass the final AP test. Admittedly, writing can get lost in my classroom because of this. The Graide Network gave me an extra set of eyes, and with that, I decided to give my students an essay assignment in small portions. Day one, students created their outline which I read and gave feedback on by the next day. Day two, they wrote their rough draft which I again read and gave feedback on. Finally, on day three, students wrote their final draft in a timed situation. This is the essay I sent to The Graide Network.

A week later, the most detailed feedback I have ever seen was waiting for me! I had requested that each of my students were given “Glows” and “Grows” alongside the completed rubric from the Graider. After receiving the feedback for my students, I set aside time in class to let students read through their individual feedback and revisit their essays. The room was all a buzz as students discussed their individual feedback and debated if they thought it was fair or not.  Although some students were mostly being defensive towards the feedback they received, they were sitting around and talking amongst their classmates about what makes good writing, good. It was a dream come true! They had a number of long-term takeaways such as writing in a different manner when they were writing for a stranger and not me. They now understood what I had been trying to explain about needing to be more detailed when they write their essay on their AP test.

I still graded some of the final essays myself. Initially, this was to double check if these strangers were doing a good job (I can be a bit of a control freak with my classroom, so letting go was a challenge). This turned out to be the best thing for me in order to grow in my practice. By comparing my grading to the Graiders, I was able to take time to be self-reflective about my own feedback and expectations. For example, because I teach some of our top students, I almost always give a point for students’ grammar and usage. When almost none of my students got a point on this portion of the rubric, I realized I needed to raise my own expectations. Overall, this experience helped my students become better writers, and it helped me become a better writing teacher. I am giving a practice AP test soon and look forward to using The Graide Network again!

- Ms. S, 11th Grade AP History Teacher

. . . they were sitting around and talking amongst their classmates about what makes good writing, good. It was a dream come true!