Margin Notes

Conversations About Artifacts of Learning- Inquiry Writing


This is a summary of this year’s final conversation about artifacts of student learning as part of our Visible Learning project with our colleagues Michelle Wuest and Shelley Hanson and their Grade 11 students at Leo Hayes High School.  You can read a description of the project here.

In order to make our own learning visible, we decided to follow a protocol based on the Project Zero See-Think-Wonder thinking routine to structure our conversations and capture our thinking and reflections.  We recorded the conversation and I have summarized our observations, wonderings, and reflections.

Description of Artifact

After brainstorming a list of their wonderings-questions they would like to know the answers to-Shelley’s students selected a question (from the list or on their own) to explore further in an inquiry writing piece.  Students were challenged to explore at least 3-4 different perspectives in their final pieces.

Shelley shared a mentor text with her students: “What Women Really Do in the Bathroom” which can be found on page 119 of Kelly Gallagher’s book, Write Like This or here.

After writing, students responded to some of these prompts to guide their reflection:

  • What have you learned about yourself as a writer in doing these inquiry pieces?
  • What did you find difficult? How did you overcome the challenges?
  • How did you practice/meet your writing goals throughout this process?
  • What progress did you make from the 1st piece (humorous piece) to the 3rd and final inquiry piece?

We see…

 …a wide range of unique topics.  Again, we recognize that this is the power of choice.  Students were invited to use writing to explore a topic they were curious about.

…the influence of a mentor text that demonstrated the possibilities for this type of writing.

…writers challenging themselves to identify a wide range of expert opinions and perspectives on their topics.

…writers developing, and at times changing their opinions through the writing process.

…an invitation to write authentically based on a mentor text discovered by a teacher who reads through a lens of possibilities for her writing class.

We think…

…most students appreciate the support offered by examining the structure and craft moves of the mentor text.  They were left with a road map of possibilities as opposed to a prescribed outline.

…some students struggled to “find their voices” in information writing.

…the mentor text made the writing more authentic—they gave students permission to break the “school rules” of writing.

We wonder…

 …how the reflections would have changed if we had asked students to identify and annotate the places where their writing was influenced by the mentor text.

…how we can tailor the reflections to invite students to articulate how they have grown as a writer over the course of creating a piece of writing.

Where do we go now?

Our discussion has led us to the following next steps:

  • Asking more explicit reflection questions to how the use of mentor texts impacted their writing processes and products.
  • Exploring how we can make revisiting goal and reflecting a more embedded routine throughout the writing process, not just at the end.

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