Day Eleven–All about Revision

What We Did to Prepare for Today

For today’s class, we were supposed to read two pieces on revision—one by Elbow and another essay by Straub—both of which can be found on Blackboard under Readings for Week 5. Additionally, we were to provide feedback on our group’s TIB essay, using the concepts from both articles, and post them to our group’s Google docs before the start of class.

Snacks make for a productive (and happy) class!

What Happened in Class

Dr. Benko gently reminded us to set aside time to work on our midterms and to use the suggested schedule on Blackboard as a guide; she suggested we work on the task and the outline and that the rubric would not be as time consuming.

Then we opened today’s google doc and did a quick write reflecting on our feedback and how it related to the readings we did for today’s class. We wrote for about five minutes and then moved on to partner work. We used Google docs to brainstorm the typical words that come to mind when it comes to traditional teacher feedback and then we thought about the kind of feedback that Straub and Elbow advocate for.

Here’s a link to the Google Doc:

Also, here’s the link to the Google folder with our revisions:

Things we noticed about the readings (heavily paraphrased):

  • Benji noted that students should have ownership of their work–teachers should not spell out everything for students when it comes to revising papers, students should learn to revise their own work.
  • Erin agreed with Elbow that teachers should read students’ entire essays before making comments or suggestions–instead of marking as we go.
  • Cassie mentioned that it is up to the teacher to create an easy going environment where students see the teacher as a reader and not just the person determining the grade.
  • There was some disagreement between Brittany and Emily about whether teachers should mark on students’ papers. On one hand, it seems disrespectful to write all over the paper. On the other hand, it is physically easier to mark on the paper when giving feedback.
  • Kayla really liked the point about asking students to interpret the feedback the teacher gives; it helps the teacher improve their feedback.
  • We also noticed that comments written by teachers on papers can be confusing or unclear. Dr. Benko suggested audio feedback as a way to respect students’ work and to make their feedback clear. This approach allows the teacher to speak to students as a reader of their work and to give the students an idea of their thinking process.
  • Finally, Kaleb made the point that revision needs to be a balance of both the facilitative and directive approach, arguing that students need to know about grammar and mechanics.
  • Dr Benko made the point that we need to revise for both grammar and ideas. She argued that there is a big difference between revision and editing. Revision is a way to re-see the content or the ideas in the writing. Editing is all the grammar and mechanics. Editing has no place in first drafts of writing because it may scare away reluctant writers.


Our Wordles

Next up, we discussed the common words we used when describing teacher feedback. Rachel used our words to create a Wordle:

Words associated with traditional teacher feedback


Our other Wordle on what Srauss and Elbow advocate for:

Feedback Straub and Elbow advocate for


Final Tasks

We then talked a little about the word clouds and the differences we noticed between the two. The big difference was the word collaborative: this goes back to the idea in Strauss and Elbow articles that the ownership of the work belongs to the student and it is the teacher and student collaborating. Traditionally, the teacher is usually seen as the person who judges the writing and gives out the grade.

Dr. Benko made a good point about scaffolding and its connection to creating an environment where there is a peer dynamic between the student and the teacher. The teacher should have the right demeanor in order for students to feel comfortable approaching the teacher for feedback and suggestions.

We also had a short discussion on using word clouds (Wordles) in our classrooms. It is easier to see the words and similarities and this is a tool that helps with discussion. They are good for summary or synthesis. There are settings within the tool to correct for different uses of case.

Finally, we got into our writing groups and read our feedback for our This I Believe essays. We then filled out a chart using examples of helpful feedback and then connected that feedback to ideas in the readings for today. We also talked in our groups about our drafts and discussed any questions we had about their feedback.

After we did this, Dr. Benko talked about a few of her observations about our revisions. She noticed that we had some different approaches: some of us made comments at the beginning of the drafts, or the end, some highlighted texts and made comments on the side, while others wrote notes to the authors. Overall, she noticed that our comments were both nice and filled with useful suggestions for the author. On a practical level, it may not be possible to leave detailed feedback on every assignment. Students can help with feedback by working together in groups and the teacher can limit in-depth feedback to one draft.

Additional Revision Information:

Here’s an article I found on Edutopia about “Glossing” which is another revision method for students:

More tips for student revision (also from Edutopia):


Looking Ahead for Next Time:

  • For Day 12, Please read Chapters 1 & 2 in Crafting Digital Writing by Troy Hicks. This is one of our textbooks and won’t be available online!
  • Also read “No longer a luxury: Digital Literacy can’t wait” from Hicks and Turner. This is available on Blackboard under Readings, week 6.
  • This I believe essay and Podcast is due October 6th!
  • Continue to work on Midterm drafts. Please keep in mind that Dr. Benko will be “off the grid” over Fall Break, so go to her early if you have questions!









Day 6: Be like Oprah

Due today 

Make sure you turned in your rough draft for “This I Believe” (hard copy of course)

And don’t forget the resources we were supposed to have for today: School Writing Versus Authentic Writing and Ken Lindeblom’s bomb twitter (He tweets back sometimes!) 

For next class 

  • Benko (2012/2013), “Scaffolding: An Ongoing Process”
  • Smagorinsky, Ch. 2 “A Structured Process Approach” 
  • Be sure to start thinking about your First Twitter reflection assignment, it’s due 9/8 (Day 8)

Before I get started on what we did today, let me just say “Good Job!” Cathy Day observed us having an awesome and engaging conversation! 

So what did we do today? 

Today we started off reflecting on our “This I Believe” rough drafts (Any questions or concerns? Not happy with it yet? Totally thrilled with how it turned out? Let Dr. Benko know if you haven’t done so already!)

We did a lot of work with Mi Casa and had a great discussion on how to create an inclusive classroom culture, so that all students felt welcome and comfortable and really PART of the classroom and their learning.  We also analyzed the assignment and decided wether or not the assignment was Intellectual work, what was its’ purpose, does the student have ownership of the assignment, and who is the audience. We pretty much decided that it wasn’t really intellectual work because it didn’t invoke deeper thinking, the purpose was pretty clear but there were a few discrepancies on what the students needed write/who it was for. It scored high on student ownership, but the audience was unclear. (Google Doc here)

As for the news anchor project (This) it was decided that it was busy work (not intellectual), purpose was semi clear (“Jump from step one to step two is unclear/lacking connection and needs explained more.”), it provided a decent amount of ownership, and the audience is clear. One key note brought up that changed it was “Are they researching a story and then creating their own story, or are they recreating an existing story?” As a teacher, this is a good example of the importance of being super specific in your assignments. 



Food for thought: How does Emilie’s task fit into this analysis? 

Our main focus for our discussions can be summed up in the following points:

  • How do we know it’s authentic?
  • Why do we assign writing in school to begin with?
        • You have two kids: Those who write only in one way or those who don’t write at all. Some kids need structure
        • We also need to model and have them practice or they won’t
        • We have standards 
        • We also need to expose students to different types of writing 
This a standard before you come along.


Shifting gears a bit, how do we get students to think about “Authentic” writing as being academic writing? Can the two even mix? We had a great in-class discussion about how we can engage students to write authentically in the classroom. Traditionally, students see academic writing as just for the grade and don’t really get a lot out of the writing. They ask questions like “Can I do this? Is this wrong? Will this count off? Is it for a grade?” and cater to what the school or teacher want. While students who create authentic writing ask questions like: “Will this relate to my audience? Does this make sense? How can I make my character more dynamic?” 

Alivia brought up an excellent point in our discussion: “Authentic writing is so important because the audience is REAL.” She had a writing prompt in High School:”Write to school officials about your thoughts on getting school uniforms (Do you agree or disagree? Why?)” And Alivia said nobody really cared about the topic because they KNEW they would never get uniforms, so the audience isn’t real. So how do we engage our students and get them to write authentically? Well….



Give students some choice, that’s how! You need to get students to take the information you give them, and do something with it! Don’t let them just repeat it back. 

Tom Forrest helps begin this idea of choice and student involvement by allowing his students to bring in decoration for the classroom in a new way. (Here) From this, we discussed the importance of a “Classroom Culture” where students feel comfortable and can be honest.

Key Notes from class discussion:

Intellectual work: Rigorous! Really make students use that higher level thinking. Don’t let students just regurgitate information. And don’t just give them a bunch of busy work. That isn’t stimulating for the mind and frankly nobody likes it. (Not even teachers, you have to grade it all later). 

Purpose:Do I know what I’m writing about? Why am I writing this?” They need to know how to go about it and what they’re doing it. (Always ask “What are you doing and why?” They need to know what they are doing and why. Be a teacher and question like a 3 year old).

Aim for authentic audiences: More than just the teacher should read it. Some alternatives:


Ownership: Let students have choice over their writing because it helps them care more about the assignment and makes it “real” and take “ownership” of their writing. 

Equitable choice: Don’t let one project/assignment choice be too hard and one too easy.

Food For thought: 

Whenever you can, let students write in a position of power or write over something they know a lot about! Don’t make them feel like they have to write towards what the teacher knows. Let them write about what they know or what they want to know.

“How do you make learning not in hindsight?” 

        • Reflect on what you’ve written while you’re doing it. Write a reflection over a rough draft, for example. What was easy? What was hard? What can improve? 
        • Don’t confuse fun for learning
        • Ask students to think about their thinking
        • Can we get someone else’s hindsight? 
        • Have students write to the next grade/class

“How can I create a more authentic audience for my students?” Well… here are some resources:

  • Tumblr (Troi and Brittany have a tumblr, it’s linked on their Twitter and now here too!)
  • WordPress ( Rachel and Alyssa both have one! Heck, our 350 blog is here too)
  • Iweb 
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • (You can start a petition here and explain it too!)
  • Here’s a neat article about how one teacher got her students to write a little more authentically. Don’t forget that Pinterest is amazing at generating ideas and prompts and just in general teacher stuff!
  • More ideas for encouraging authentic writing 
  • Some cool writing prompts for all tastes!

“Useful” writing resources for those moments when students ask “Why do I need to practice writing?”:

  • Resume writing (complete with the standards that go with it)
  • Email etiquette! (You’d be surprised how many don’t know these things)
  • Sample scholarship questions

And our final thought for class:


Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your students! 

Give students the space to be honest (“Well…I didn’t really like this or this.” or “I realize now that hard work sucks at the time, but it can become meaningful later on.”)

Take criticism about the class and lessons and realize they aren’t about you. Let them be honest. Be careful and intentional or else it may get personal. But just keep in mind the importance of creating an open classroom culture where both students and teachers can get feedback to help them improve. 

Don’t forget to sleep this weekend!

– Cassie 

Day 23 – Grammar

Hey team!

So, in class today, our friend Emilie taught our lesson about grammar videos. A few of the past readings that you may want to review that were applicable to this lesson include:

While reviewing these readings, keep in mind what the goals of the videos in this lesson are. Also, keep in mind what the goals for our own videos will be. These videos are examples of what you can do on your project or to gain inspiration. When looking at these videos it is helpful to reflect back on the rubric and what we discussed about the difference between categories. Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that none of these videos were made for this class.

IMG_1693.JPGRemember, in class we discussed the differences in between each section of the rubric and what elements were absolutely necessary to include in our videos. In the image above, you can see the necessary elements underlined in green and the elements that distinguish between sections underlined in black.

After going over the rubric, we were given 5 videos to watch and grade based on the rubric. Below are the grades that each of our groups gave the 5 videos. Click on the “VIDEO #” to watch each video again.

VIDEO 1 Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
Presentation of information P P Dis Basic Pro
Use of mentor texts P P Dis Basic Basic
Use of Visual scaffold B U Dis Basic Pro


VIDEO 2 Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
Presentation of information B+ B Pro Basic Basic
Use of mentor texts D D Dis Pro Pro
Use of Visual scaffold P- P Pro Basic Basic


VIDEO 3 Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
Presentation of information P P Bas Pro Dis
Use of mentor texts D B Dis Pro Dis
Use of Visual scaffold P U Bas Pro Dis


VIDEO 4 Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
Presentation of information P D Pro Basic Dis
Use of mentor texts B+ P Dis Basic Pro
Use of Visual scaffold P P Dis Dis Dis


VIDEO 5 Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4 Group 5
Presentation of information P B Pro Basic Basic
Use of mentor texts P B Pro Pro Basic
Use of Visual scaffold B- U Pro Basic Un

In groups, we discussed the full subjectivity that occurs in grading and perceptions. This should be used as a reminder of what to keep in mind when you are grading student work. The main issue that led us to this idea of subjectivity was the differences of opinion that we saw in the rubrics and the graphs above. This subjectivity means that we need to take care when it comes to creating our own videos. We must create videos that are as objectively educational as possible. Also, we learned that as teachers, we need to build an understanding and develop a means of grading fairly and equally when evaluating grading criteria.

For the future, remember to keep looking ahead and working on your finals and keep up with the work. Dr. Benko emphasizes that for the last bit of the semester to keep track and work a little bit at a time.


Some upcoming due dates:

Complete video lesson and reflection due Tuesday, April 19th

Final is on Tuesday, May 3rd from 12-2pm


Looking ahead links:

One teacher’s ideas on how to create white board video lessons.

Another teacher lays out some resources for creating videos.

Finally, a quick tutorial on adding interactive elements to YouTube videos.


Day 22 – Looking at Student Work

Hey team. Here is the post for 3/31.

Prior to class, you guys read some examples of actual student writing. You needed to annotated/ prepare some notes about the grammar errors in the writing. Having done this, we spent the day talking about these errors. The goal was to discuss these groups so we make sure we are accurate about labeling the grammar error and we can collaborate about the definitions and pseudo-concepts.

Student Work

Here are some ideas I overheard from each group.

Signs of Genre in the Writing (this lets us know what students learned)

  • Descriptive details
  • Dialogue
  • Characters developed
  • Plot (there is a start and finish)

Student Strengths (this lets us know what students can do)

  • Descriptive detail (these students have a story they want to tell)
  • Taking risks (they make some mistakes, but content is there and they are trying different ways to tell stories)
  • Multiple perspectives (characters developed and distinct)

Student Errors (this lets us know what students need instruction about)

  • Paragraphing (Possible Pseudo-concept = “it is all the same plot/story, so you don’t need to break it apart”)
  • Run-On (Possible Pseudo-concept = “the ideas all connect, so it doesn’t need to stop”)
  • Commas After Introductory Elements (Possible Pseudo-concept = “the introductory part is essential to the main sentence, so you don’t want to separate them”)
  • Comma Splices  (Possible Pseudo-concept = “I have a lot to say and know that I need to break this information up, so a comma is enough”)
  • Shift in Verb Tense (Possible Pseudo-concept = “You use past tense for old information. That’s why the beginning of my story is in past tense and the end of my story is present progressive”)

I noticed some great conversations. I want to mention a few in particular that I found really helpful.

The first was with Jacob’s group. In several student examples, the pieces were one long paragraph and, consequentially, felt breathless and crowded. In others, student work consisted of short simple sentences that felt stunted and incomplete. Jacob suggesting showing these students some Emily Dickinson’s poems, specifically “Because I could not stop for Death”,  as an example of how writers use punctuation to affect meaning. I see the connection with Anderson’s text when he talks about having students manipulate sentences. If students read Dickson’s work aloud with different types of punctuation, they can see the effect commas or punctuation play on their ideas.

Next, Benko brought up a good point about using student errors as a formative assessment. Formative assessments should help guide your instruction. If your whole class of students is having problems with comma splices, then it might mean that you need to teach it to the whole class. If only a few students are struggling, then it might mean you need to do a grammar mini-lesson with those students. As you grade or read, it is important to see your role as a teacher in the process. What can you teach? What can you do differently? What do your students need from you? Something Benko suggested was looking at state standards.

Finally, I noticed that several groups would find sentences with multiple grammar errors. This became problematic as it was difficult to pinpoint how to help the student. My advice was to (1) look for a pattern in the student work and (2) really think about the pseudo-concept/what the student was thinking. But I also understand that sometimes student make silly mistakes or make an almost overwhelming amount of errors. My personal takeaway was that we need to recognize what’s worth addressing. Is it an error that completely messes with the readability of the piece? Or is it a subtle or single mistake? What is the grammar priority?

After this discussion, Benko introduced your grammar video project. You will be teaching a grammar concept in a video that utilizes the key traits of Anderson’s text:

  • mentor texts
  • engagement/ practice
  • visual scaffold

Looking ahead

Student Reflection Paper due on Tuesday in BOX (please refer to the student’s using the student code. You can find the code in the student document’s title)

As an outside resource, I found this link from blog post from (shocker) a Writing Center tutor about teaching grammar vs. proofreading grammar. It is a short read title “The Power in Grammar” and can give you some insight into how you assess grammar. Here is a quote that summarizes the main message of the piece. You need some context (her instructional method), but the points are still relevant.

Using this instructional method gets around some of my issues with the power dynamic involved in fixit grammar.  First, even though I position myself as an authority in terms of grammar knowledge, that authority is shared by the webpage found at the link.  Second, I only “fix” one or two sentences in the draft and I fix them in the email comments, not in the draft itself, thereby avoiding invading the student’s writing.  Third, I leave the rest of the revision up to the student.  Her writing remains hers and she is in charge of revising it.


February 11th- Feedback Day One!

Hey all! Here is your summary of what we did in class for day one of feedback. Class was a lot of fun, but also so productive as well!

Here’s what all went down:

To be prepared for class we had to read “Options for Responding to Student Writing,” by Elbow, “The Concept of Control,” by Straub, as well as the This I Believe essays written by our group members.

After reading both articles over feedback, and then reading our group member’s essays, we all gave everyone in your group feedback using some of the techniques you learned from Elbow and Straub! Some of the feedback techniques that Elbow and Straub discuss are the following: giving student ownership of their work by knowing that as teachers our feedback does not always have to be accepted, always praising student text, or even focusing on one point where a change would improve the piece overall. The feedback we left for our group members was then posted in the Google Drive!

At the start of class Dr. Benko had us briefly go over the feedback that we gave the members of our group, and explain how you used one specific technique that we learned from Elbow and Straub for every member of our group. Our analysis of our feedback were then saved, and uploaded to our 350 BOX account!

After we finished our critique analysis we were separated into pairs based off of the person we shared a table with. We were then asked to discuss the following: What words or phrases come to mind when you think of typical feedback that we may have received from our teachers, and what words or phrased come to mind when we think of feedback from our Elbow and Straub readings. Emilie was nice enough to make word clouds for us!

Here are a few of the words that came to mind when we thought about typical feedback:


Here are the words that came to mind when we thought about Elbow and Straub feedback:


If you take a look at the word cloud that correlates with typical feedback some of the larger words you see (which means these words were used most often) were words such as: vague, unclear, frustrating, open ended, and okay. These words suggest that typical red pen feedback that teachers so often give isn’t always that helpful to the writing process. In class we discussed how feedback is so important to the writing process; however, we were all able to say that the typical feedback was the feedback that we most often received. many people talked about how they even went to the point of completely ignoring the feedback that they were given. This is alarming, and proves that if feedback is going to be as helpful as it needs to be something has got to change.

This is where Elbow and Straub come it. The large words that appear in their word clouds are words such as: student, ownership, supportive, respect, human, think, etc. From reading those words and looking at the word cloud you probably can tell that overall we felt that the feedback Elbow and Straub discuss is more likely to benefit student writing. During discussion many people talked about how giving students ownership of their work is not only going to help those who are willing to write improve, but maybe even inspire struggling writers or those who generally are not interested in writing. We continued to discuss how humanistic, realistic, and supportive feedback is so incredibly important because it gives students room to improve on their writing skills: rather than giving them an unrealistic or vague list of errors the student made in their writing and are expected to improve on in their next piece. Over all it appeared that the whole class felt that Elbow and Straub’s techniques is the way feedback needs to move if students are going to be able to benefit from the process.

Next we read the feedback over our This I Believe Essay that our group members gave to us, and picked the one that we felt was the most helpful. We had to explain why as a writer it was helpful to us, and then in what ways it connected to the readings we did for class. Emilie was nice enough to make another set of word clouds!

Here is the word cloud over the feedback and how it helped us as a writer:


Here is the world cloud over how the feedback connected to the readings:


It was really great to be able to look at the word clouds associated with the feedback that we gave to our classmates and see similar words to the Elbow and Straub word clouds. It would appear than not only did we as a class feel that the feedback out classmates left for us was not only beneficial, but that is also was appreciated, specific, tangible, and they were suggestions rather than demands. It would appear that we all felt that the feedback we were given was a great application of what Elbow and Straub discuss in their respective readings, and that the feedback also helped us improve our writing!

 “The goal is to make thoughtful informed feedback for what not only works for us as teachers, but what also works for our kids.” –Dr. Benko

Dr. Benko told us about a group of middle school boys that she had when she was a secondary teach. She explained that these students were disengaged in the classroom, but they were really intelligent. It was so hard for Dr. Benko to get these students to write for her, and as such the best feedback for these students was something that was short that was a kind praise, and something that was short and a suggestion.

It was explained that knowing your students is incredibly important when it comes to feedback. If Dr. Benko had given these students a large amount of criticism, they may have felt more discouraged than they already were; however, if she had given them copious amounts of praise that also could be overwhelming. We as teachers need to make a large effort when it comes to understanding what feedback will work best for our students.

Take away:

Remember, feedback is incredibly important when it comes to the writing process. Feedback is an opportunity to help students grow, and as such it should be given out of kindness, throughout the process rather than just at the end, and with the understanding that we as readers do not have ownership over the writing. Giving students ownership of their writing is a great way to encourage them t write more often, and allows them to grow into their own unique writing style!

Think about it:

Since we are all in college we all have received feedback in one way or another. I’d like to ask all of you to think about a time where you received feedback that was not helpful to you as a writer. Think about the following questions: Why wasn’t it helpful, and what techniques could your teacher or professor have used from Elbow or Straub to make that feedback more beneficial?

For more information about feedback, check out this article! This article is called “Improving Student Writing: Using Feedback as a Teaching Tool,” by Shelley Stagg Peterson. Stagg Peterson writes on a lot of similar feedback techniques that Elbow and Straub discuss, and even goes more in-depth about peer feedback. Stagg Peterson’s article proves that not only are other professionals thinking about feedback in similar ways as Elbow and Straub, but also that their techniques are being applied in the real world, and that they are seeing results!

Looking ahead:

  • Twitter reflections are due by the beginning of class on Tuesday February the 16th
  • The readings for Tuesday and Thursday have been reversed!
  • For Tuesday please read “No Longer a Luxury: Digital Literacy Can’t Wait” by Hicks (Link is on Blackboard under the Readings section).

Have a good weekend!