It was supposed to be funny #SOL23 28/31

“It was supposed to be funny.”

That’s what I told my grade 12 students on Monday when I shared one of my recent blog posts – the one with the squirrel pictures. I pointed out the title and the photographs. “I started with funny, but I ended with sappy.” This was my writer’s dilemma: “So what I’m looking for are ideas for how to revise this to make it funnier – or even just a little funny.”

Cue uncomfortable shifting in their seats. Critique the teacher’s work? Not likely.

Undaunted, I continued. “OK, R has volunteered to be the leader,” R nodded, “so he’s going to tell us our first step.” 

“Um, ok, um…” he shuffled the papers in front of him, trying to figure out the next step. “Oh! You need to read it out loud.”

I did. I had planned two class periods (minus our daily reading and writing time) for the students to share their work and offer suggestions. I was following the Feedback Protocol developed by Peggy Silva and shared with me by Xan Woods and, not surprisingly, when I told students that they would read their work out loud to their peers panic had ensued. Telling them that someone else could read the piece out loud for them was not the balm they had anticipated. So I’d pulled out my next trick and asked them help me with my writing. 

You can imagine the wary looks I got. I explained about the Slice of Life challenge and how I had been writing every day for almost a month. EVERY DAY? They were half impressed, half worried about my state of mind. Those latter concerns were heightened because now I was offering – no, asking – to have them help me. As I read aloud, I found a mistake in my *published* piece. “Oops, I need to fix that,” I said – and I didn’t die or anything. I just fixed it.

“Ok, R. What’s next?” I asked.

“We have to read it again, then offer you ‘warm’ feedback.”

Because I know this is hard, every time we use the Feedback Protocol, I give students a script (also developed by Xan & easily modified to fit our needs) in addition to the general how-to. Now, we continued through the script. The students had plenty of nice things to say about my piece, and they were able to be pretty specific with their compliments. Then came time for cool feedback. 

“Oh, I feel bad about saying this.”
“Miss, are you sure you want to hear this?”
“I just feel kind of mean.”

I reassured the students that I had asked for this feedback, that I wanted to do better. “Look,” I said, “I really wanted this to be funny. I know you can help. You are 100% funnier than I am.”

As they spoke, I took notes in front of them. The more I wrote down their comments, the more confidence they gained. After a few minutes, time for cool feedback was over. I thanked them and reflected on what I had heard and what changes I thought I would make.

Just like that. Like it was no big deal.

Then it was their turn. Tentatively, they moved into their groups. On the first day, only one student from each group was able to receive feedback. As the class left, the mood was less tense, maybe curious.

Today, after reading time, the groups re-formed quickly. Essays appeared out of notebooks and folders. No one had lost their papers. Around the room, students huddled together around papers, their pencils scratching down notes or writing in margins. Laughter, questions, talking… was this the same group that couldn’t quite remember everyone’s names just a week ago? Were these the same students who looked stunned yesterday when I told them they would read their work out loud? 

Yes, yes these are the same students, I promise. As class came to an end, I asked how they felt about the protocol. “So good,” said someone. “Really useful,” said another.

“Excellent,” I said, then added, “Revisions are due Friday.” Good natured groans sounded around the room. As they kids left for their next class, I overheard someone say, “that was really good, wasn’t it? Like, really good.”

Ah yes, pedagogy for the win.

11 thoughts on “It was supposed to be funny #SOL23 28/31

  1. I appreciate your vulnerability and I think they did too! We have to open ourselves up to get them to buy in sometimes.

    I love when you write about what happens in your class. ❤


  2. Pedagogy that wouldn’t have worked if these kids didn’t know and trust one another…even if they’re still getting there. Great move to use your writing to ease them in. I love that they ended up seeing the value in the process. You captured the students initial reluctance so well and then that transition to digging into the work. Love this!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this protocol!!! I noticed the balance of dialogue and description and narrator’s commentary. I could picture the scene and wondered about asking for feedback on my own writing, but you have modelled this effectively. “Focus on the process” = my new mantra.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wise and practical move for you to serve as your class’s first volunteer and afford students their latest chance to practice the feedback protocol. As for this line about students’ reactions to you writing daily for most of this month: “They were half impressed, half worried about my state of mind,” it’s funny because it nicely captures how I feel about myself as the end of March approaches.


  5. Thanks for sharing this protocol–definitely saving to use if I ever get to teach any kind of writing that isn’t canned five-paragraph essays. I loved the window into your classroom and seeing how this activity transformed reluctance to “that was really good”.


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