If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I love my group work kits. Last August, I bought some plastic containers at the dollar store, labeled them as you see above, and filled them with the things my students might need when they work in collaborative groups (which they do a lot).
Each one contains post-it notes, highlighters, markers, a glue stick and paper clips. Now, instead of wasting time passing these things out individually, my kids know that they need to send someone to my back cupboard to grab a kit. I can start circulating or conferencing right away, since the kids can form their groups and get ready to work without my assistance. If you’d like to try this with your kiddos, you can grab the labels (as well as a colourful classroom poster) here.
I’ve used this technique before, but I really embraced it last year, and it made a definite difference. Whenever I gave students a model of writing, I colour-coded the individual elements so students could have a clear visual of what I wanted. Topic sentences were in one colour; transitions were in another. Summary for context was different than analysis.
I extended this activity by enlarging and cutting up a sample paragraph, so students could get even more practice. You can read about how this activity worked here.
My highlighters also became an effective tool for faster grading — and greater learning for the students. Whenever I took in their note-books, instead of giving them written feedback, I would highlight areas that were well done in one colour, and areas that needed work in another. Then, they had to write out the “needs work” sentences and improve them. They passed those in for a mark. It was so much easier for me, and they were forced to use my feedback — and learn.
I’ve always put a lot of focus on the revision process, but this year I decided to spend more time on pre-writing, and I saw big improvements in my students’ first drafts. I added essay planning stations to my collection, and students were required to actually put in time thinking about their focus, playing around with ways to organize, and ensuring that they had enough detail and information to develop their points. It took more time but, boy, was it worth it!
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