Critique as a Lesson
The following is a reflection on what it's like to use critique as a lesson format. I wanted to improve the quality of the writing in reflections that my students were writing, so I decided to show them examples of high quality writing and have them critique it.
Note on Format
Ever since I was exposed to the Launch, Explore, Summarize model of lesson planning I have been using it for just about everything. Whenever I need to deliver information to the class I try to collect it into those categories because I have had such success with it. This lesson was delivered in LES format and so I have chose to discuss each phase in this post.
I wanted to do this lesson because the reflective writing assignments I had been receiving from the class were pretty weak. I decided to take the position that I hadn't clearly outlined my expectations for the assignment and that I needed to better communicate what I hoped that they would do in future assignments.
This was enough for a launch. I had a discussion with the class about the quality of their reflections and tried to be honest with them that I didn't think I had communicated my expectations well enough. There were a few questions but mostly I was able to get the message across: "I am going to help you do better on your reflective writings"
I passed out a copy of a reflection that I had received from an old student that had stood out to me at the time. I printed it out and gave everyone a copy. I was really glad that I had saved work from before so that I had an example to show my students. Having never given them an example of a good reflection I was getting a range of results and formats from the group when they turned in their work.
To explore this document I had them pick a paragraph to read with a partner. I asked them to find a line that sounded reflective and to underline the section that they identified, This forces them to make a choice and actually pick something. By underlining a reflective section, they are also prepped for the group discussion later, where I call out random names. Because they have something underlined to talk about I feel that this is a pretty fair time to use random names. I refrain from this practice in other circumstances because I know that some students are better at group discussions than others,
I led a discussion asking pairs to identify the reflective sections. I asked them to be specific about what made those sections reflective. A student recorded the comments on the board.
The final piece of this lesson was asking everyone to summarize what they had heard from their peers. To do that, I asked everyone to complete the following sentence: "A good reflection is..." This was pretty successful in helping everyone close the loop on the lesson. As a bonus their sentences worked as guidelines for future reflections. We posted these up on the board and used them to guide their writing.
I was happy with how well the class identified the strength and weaknesses of the given text. They also wrote very thoughtful summary sentences that I found specific and helpful. Using text from a former student was key because they connected with the writing and found it all the more impressive. Unfortunately I failed to capture their writing in a meaningful or sharable way, and the work they did hasn't been recorded. It would be better to make some sort of document or poster that I could mount and refer back to in the future.
When I do this type of lesson again, I will be sure to come up with a summary sentence starter before hand. I knew I wanted to summarize but only in the moment decided to give them a sentence starter. Ultimately this was useful, but I think I can develop the starter to provoke thought.
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Philip Estrada is a teacher at High Tech High Media Arts in San Diego California. He teaches Physics by having kids build things in a woodshop.