Friday, February 17, 2017

B-Ball and Soccer Drills, and the Importance of Collaboration in Revision

Class began today with Devin drawing up the UCLA drill on my whiteboard. I had challenged him to draw a drill from varsity basketball practice that was really hard, something he couldn't have done in 7th grade or earlier. Devin's been nursing a bum shoulder lately which has him watching more practice than he's participating in, but he willingly drew the drill despite the injury to his writing hand.

He drew the court, the X's and the dashes which symbolize passes. He wrote "85" and "3 mins." Describing the drill to the class, he explained how the team had to make 85 shots in three minutes. If they didn't they would run - line drills, presumably. 

I added the units of measure - shots- and the disincentive, which I labeled "run." 

Cris stood next to Devin and drew a soccer drill. He's playing club soccer, which he claims is even more competitive than the school varsity. To Cris, club soccer during his Junior year is the time when colleges will give him the closest look and consider him for a scholarship, so he's learning drills and trying to get back into playing shape. 

Cris' drawing conveys that drills at his level require him to execute passes through the air and on the ground. He explained to our class that the passes were 30 yards in length and that if they failed to meet their marks, players had to perform 50 pushups, or run- laps, presumably. 

The other students listened with expressions that ranged from rapt attention to feigned disinterest but Tia challenged me to explain what this had to do with the papers students are writing. 

That was all the invitation I needed to talk to my students for just a few minutes about the connections I see between basketball practice and writing practice. 

1. neither of these drills can be done independently.
2. writers, like soccer players and basketball players, need to regularly hone skills like drafting, editing and revision.
3. revision done best, like these drills, requires many iterations and coordinated collaboration. 
The protocol below represents a kind of drill for writers. Like the drills the two boys drew on the whiteboard, the revision group calls on writers to collaboratively employ skills that they probably learned before entering my 11th grade English class. 

They can all independently answer following revision questions that prepare them for a peer support. 

  • What is your strongest paragraph? Which one needs the most work?
  • How is your paragraph that needs the most work like one of the examples? How is it different?
  • What are some things you would like to improve about your draft (besides editing)?

  • What would you ask a reader about their experience reading your draft?

Most students are able to use the protocol below to convene a productive discussion in groups of three or four. 
Afterward, students reflect independently to ensure that they leave the group meeting with some actionable ideas to drive revision. 

What did you notice about the discussion? (I noticed we talked about ______________.) 
How did this discussion change, help or affect your thinking? (When _________ said ____________ it made me ____________ about _____________.)

Though student writers in my class have the discrete skills inside this revision group protocol, the "drill" of self-organizing and structuring a conversation that propels revision forward is something that requires coaching and practice. I left them with a reminder that these drills should inform the way they play in the future and remind them to collaborate as they revise drafts.