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The written and oral re- sponse to cover memos and drafts prompted revision and for some students prompted new directions for their research and writing. For the second part of their research project, students had the option of developing their initial four- to five-page paper into a longer eight- to ten-page paper or treating the second part of their paper in a new way. Guidelines and expectations for the second part were less formal and prescriptive than those for the first section. She scribbled down her name on the papers as if it were being chis- eled into a rock,. Although the first section of the project needed to be clearly and closely researched and documented, the second part best custom essay sites did not require students to proceed with documented writing as long as the new section used the research in the first section as a founda- tion. Similar classroom procedures continued with the second part, namely informal conferences, peer response groups, and cover memos. For some students, the creative and reflective re- sponses allowed them to shelve formalistic documentation concerns and instead focus more closely on what they had come to know and understand about their topics. These alternative forms of relating research allowed students to take risks in ex- pression and do important personal reflection and critical think- ing, examining their attitudes toward their subjects and what formed those attitudes. I also needed to rethink what type of writing I wanted to encourage in the final paper. I paused to con- sider whether my assignments, such as the research paper, en- couraged students to demonstrate competency or to write compelling, interesting prose. I needed to consider this risk taking in my instructions to students.
If I wanted students to take risks in their writing, I needed to be prepared to respond to their writing in ways that took into account not just competency but also inventiveness and personal expression.
Allowing students the choice of genre in the second part of their research project allowed me to encourage various forms of writing and risk tak- ing even within the parameters of a research project. Rethinking the final paper meant I took risks as an instruc- tor. I felt constrained by having to assign a researched and docu- mented paper while wanting students to write intensely, even personally.
Because I wanted my assessment to better reflect changes in the assignment and the revision process to move stu- dents to write stronger papers, I solicited advice from Peter El- bow about how, without becoming overburdened by teacher response to drafts, to move from assessment of structure, con- tent, and mechanics of student writing to encouraging expressive papers.
How about us- ing the revising process to help students move early exploratory germs in two slightly different directions: a kind of more formal tight paper and a more personal essay kind of paper — but using the same thinking. Rather than define the final paper in regimented terms, I could offer students alternatives for presenting their research. As El- bow suggested, I could use the revision process to best custom essay sites help students develop, even change, the direction of their writing.
Assigning my students more writing and more revision at first seemed a daunting task as I envisioned several hours of pa- per correcting. What I needed to learn were new methods of response: broader ways of provid- ing feedback and a less rigid notion of what teacher and peer response meant. Some students un- derstood the concept and used the process to help their writing. Other students focused only on edit- ing and grammatical correctness despite my attempts to shift emphasis to content and development of ideas. I also heightened the importance of peer response groups in the revision process of the research paper. Before I could address minimal, even ineffectual revision, I first had to rethink my ex- pectations for peer response. Like Romano, I feared that peer groups did not give enough direct feedback to writers about their work. What I grew to understand was the necessity of social interaction between writers as they talked about and read their work and saw their writing from different perspectives. I learned to loosen up my guidelines for peer response at times and provide stronger direc- tion at others. I learned that peer response could be as basic as editing thesis listening to drafts being read aloud.
I encour- aged peer groups to do more reader-based responses, as Peter Elbow and Pat Belanoff suggest in Sharing and Responding (1995). Students needed practice as critical readers, listeners, and responders. Although helping them gain skill in responding took time, the effort paid off by making my writing classroom more student centered and by allowing students to receive meaningful feedback to their writing.
Even when I provided an environment that supported revision and re- custom essay company flection, students had varying expectations, abilities, motivation, and preparation. I needed to encourage them to develop and change over time, and I needed to best custom essay sites be patient when students did not respond as I had envisioned they would. Several components of this research project invited best custom essay sites students to reflect on their writing and on the subject of their writing.
Through formal and informal conferences and peer group dis- cussions, students began to form perspectives on their topics and to present their new understandings about their topics.
Cover memos encouraged reflection as students thought about the de- velopment of their writing in draft form.
Approach- ing the project in two stages allowed both my students and me to focus on developmental concerns, if needed, and encouraged their interest in their topics to grow and take new directions. Allowing for alternative types of writing in the second section of the re- search project also prompted student reflection. The new directions students took in their research projects were exciting. Some students clearly became personally invested in their topics. After researching a topic that directly affected her life, Martha wrote compelling reflection, her personal reaction based not only on emotions and memory but also on a larger, cognitive understanding of her topic.