Do you ever attempt the assessment pieces that your students need to complete? It can be a really hard thing to do! This is why co-constructing texts with your class is an important learning step.
It’s also very powerful. Co-constructing the assessment to an ‘A’ level (or even from a C to a B) can help students to understand all of the elements that your students will need to succeed – maybe they are going to need specific vocabulary on their Learning Wall, or maybe they are going to need to improve their adverbial phrases.
Co-constructing helps you to understand what your students need to know, and safely allows them to identify what they need to learn.
It can give you clarity on what really needs to be taught (and re-taught), and help your students to understand the task more clearly.
Co-constructing texts with your students
Co-constructing texts with your students is a very important part of using Bump It Up Walls and Learning Walls. We talk a lot about co-constructed success criteria, but co-constructing texts is hugely important for your classroom. Worked examples (like the examples – co-constructed or not – on our Bump It Up Walls) are one way that students create schemas and reduce the cognitive load of assessment tasks.
How do I co-construct texts in my classroom?
Before writing, students need to be exposed to multiple examples, know WAGOLL (what a good one looks like), and have clear, identified success criteria to refer back to while co-constructing.
1. Immerse in the genre over a week or two
I like to start by engaging my class with a range of different examples of the text genre. For example, if we are writing procedural texts, we look at a range including recipes, how-to manuals, YouTube videos, directions, etc.
I have a range for explicit teaching and modeling, a range for our classroom bookshelf, and copies to display on our Learning Wall.
I also like to take poster-size photocopies of texts so we can annotate them and add them to our wall.
2. Modelled reading/annotating/notetaking
Deconstruct, compare, and annotate different examples. Model thinking aloud as you read the texts to your class “Here’s the title”, “Oh, here they have used sequencing words”, making note of the elements you notice in the text.
Choose structural features to highlight. You can also highlight language features (eg command verbs) and write a list of these, color-coding them as you go (eg green for verbs).
3. Brainstorm – what does a good one look like?
As a class, we brainstorm elements that make a good text example. Display a text, or provide students with a copy of a text – what do we notice?
A-ha! We have some success criteria! How can we organize these? Check them against your marking guide. Add them to your Learning Wall.
4. Co-constructing: Use Success Criteria to model how to co-construct an ‘A’ sample
When writing, make sure the learning intention and success criteria are clearly displayed. Be clear about the topic (this should not be your assessment topic).
I like to co-construct texts on my laptop, and on the projector so that students can view the text as we write and I can make changes as we go. Some teachers like to do this with butcher paper and colored markers. You can even do it on your whiteboard with a dry-erase pen, and take a photo on your phone to project later.
Encourage students to make suggestions, debate on changes, and have input into the text. Make improvements, edit, and refer to the success criteria to ensure the text is meeting the success criteria for an ‘A’.
Remember, the intention is to teach students where to focus their attention when writing their text.
Clearly cover text structure, language features, grammar, and punctuation – whatever your marking guide is assessing. If spelling isn’t being assessed, don’t make it a big focus of your modeling.
Learn through doing
Both you and your students learn through this process.
Being a ‘learner’ you identify where students need skills and knowledge and where you may need to reteach or teach differently. You also understand what students need to do and how much effort is going to be required of them.
Your students learn through watching you ‘do’. Listening to your thought processes, watching you interact with the learning wall/bump it up wall, cross-checking, and making mistakes.
Co-constructing texts is a teaching and learning activity that can have a huge impact in your classroom – I encourage you to give it a go!