Monday, April 11, 2016

Writing Workshops with AP samples

By Kim Miklusak

As we approach AP testing, I wanted to do one last series of activities with my students to bring together all of the individual skills we have been practicing.  Because we have three different essay types--argumentative, analytical, and synthesis--I planned out 3-day sequences once a week that dig into the details of each type of prompt.

My goals were many, but the main ones included
1.  To have students analyze and plan additional examples of AP prompts for each type
2.  To have students read, analyze, and score AP-provided and peer samples of essays types
3.  To have groups analyze documents and planning in a small, like-group settling in order to facilitate additional ways to think about planning and answer more questions

On the first day of the sequence, students read, annotated, and planned an AP sample on their own.  They then discussed their thinking with a small group and planned out their thesis, main ideas, and evidence.  They reviewed the three AP samples in small groups and scored them using the 1-9 holistic scoring guide.  We finally came together as a large group to discuss why each was scored the way it was and to work through any confusion if their scores were more than one point off.

On the second day they started class by writing on a giant sticky note on the front of the board: "What do I need to do to be successful on this essay type?"  We discussed the key points to focus on meta cognition and goal setting and to clear up any last minute misunderstandings.  For example, one thing I've really been working on with them this year is to do the best essay they can do in 40 minutes.  Too often I think they focus on wanting to do the best essay they can possibly do and either don't finish in time or over-think, causing a sort of brain-lock.

Using holistic scoring guide to peer- and self-assess
On the third day students returned to their groups.  They reviewed and analyzed the AP samples to set anchor papers followed by three of their peers' essays, providing a 1-9 score and rationale.  Again, if any paper was scored more than 1 point off from the others, they were asked to discuss and come to an agreed upon score.  Finally, the students re-read their own paper, making notes, and determining if they believed they got a 6 or above, in which case I should review it, or if they wanted an additional--third unseen prompt--that they can return to me by next week.  Although this doesn't have the benefit of a timed setting (I certainly encouraged them to do so), it does provide them with a third and final samples in addition to a set of anchor papers to continue to receive feedback on their work.

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