Several weeks ago in a meeting between middle school language arts teachers, a beautiful idea was born. Beth asked if she could have her fifth grade students work with seventh graders--both classes were working on writing memoirs, and she thought her fifth graders might benefit from sharing their work with the older students to receive feedback. And the seventh graders would benefit in many ways--we all know that we don't fully understand something unless we can teach/explain it to someone else, so they would strengthen their understanding of strong moves a writer makes by pointing out places where their fifth grade writing partners could make better choices (or by pointing out p,aces where they had. Ads very strong choices already). They would also be reviewing the "rules" of good writing so they could take another look at their own work. And who knows--they might even receive helpful feedback fom the fifth graders.
Luckily Jen realized what a great opportunity this collaboration would be for her seventh graders, and she and Beth proceeded with the plans. It took a bit of emailing back and forth to find the best day and time for Beth's kids to travel upstairs to Jen's room, and Jen had to prepare her kids to act as mentors for the fifth grade writers. But the arranging and prepping paid off today as a room full of middle schoolers worked as collaborators as the bravely shared their memoirs with a partner two years older or younger and gave and received feedback about their narrative leads, their conclusions, their word choice, their sentence fluency, the "power of I" (a Nancie Atwell writing rule), their "so what" and so much more.
To think that this opportunity would have been missed if the middle school teachers of language arts had not decided to meet. This group does not have a designated time to meet because department meetings occur in two groups: JK-6 and 7-12. That means that our middle school language arts teachers, grades 5-8, do not meet. But this group found their own time to meet in November. I do hope we will meet again soon.