Monday, January 24, 2011

Two Stars and a Wish..Revisited

Have you ever done "Two Stars and a Wish" with your class when they were peer revising? This is a strategy where one student shares their writing piece and the other student(s) tells two things they enjoyed about the piece and one thing they wish was different about the piece. I love this strategy because it gives the students a concrete way to respond to student writing. However, many times I have not been impressed with outcome of the 'wish' part. Often I found the student comments to be shallow and too general. Also, even though the student would start with two compliments for their peer's writing, they were still uncomfortable giving the wish. Because, let's face it, no matter how we try to disguise it, we are asking the student to point out to their peer what is wrong with their piece.

After reading a chapter in Choice Words by Peter H. Johnson, I started to think about the language of "Two Stars and a Wish" and how we could make peer revision a more positive experience. One thing he discussed was when having a writing conference with a student (teacher to student) to try not to use the word 'but' when giving a suggestion and instead to use the word 'and'. For example:

Do: "You have a great piece here about your birthday party AND if you added dialogue in the introduction it would be stronger."

Don't: "You have a great piece here about your birthday party BUT if you added more dialogue in the introduction it would be stronger."

Can you hear the difference?

Now, back to "Two Stars and a Wish". What if instead of saying tell two good things and one to change, we taught kids to say two good things AND one thing that would make the writing even stronger. This would take out the negative connotation that something was wrong with the piece. Would students be more comfortable giving a suggestion? Would the writer be more willing to revise?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Reading on the Web

In this post I'd like to highlight four of my favorite reading websites (technically, the first two are web tools). I hope you find them as useful as I do.

The Lexile Framework for Reading website is very helpful for matching your student with an appropriately leveled book.  You can type in a book title and it will give you the Lexile level for that book (for more information on Lexile levels click here). If the book title isn't in their database, then you can type in a paragraph of text from the book, and it will give the general Lexile level of that text.  You can search by author, keyword, and ISBN number if you'd like. This website includes the same search tools for books written in Spanish. The Lexile Framework for Reading website is very user friendly and easy to navigate.

Google's search engine includes a reading level filter. Let's say your students are researching wolves of North America, and you want some appropriate articles for them to read. You can use Google's reading level filter to help. I have added hyperlinks to three web articles on gray wolves that Google considers to be at basic, intermediate, and advanced reading levels. is a fantastic website for young students to read reviews about books they might like. There are book reviews, interviews with authors, and trivia questions based on favorite books. The best part is students have an opportunity to have their review posted on the website. This is a great place for kids to get excited about good books.

Storyline Online is fantastic. If you haven't been there, go there. Members of the Screen Actor's Guild read aloud picture book favorites. Your students can read along with the narrators, or just sit back, relax, and enjoy. As a special feature, each book comes with lesson plans and activities.