November 14, 2008
The Before and After is a reflective tool I have designed based on a handout I have been creating for my students since the beginning of my teaching career. I have always created handouts called “Celebrating Revision” where I have copied short excerpts from student papers before and after they were revised. Students respond enthusiastically to these dramatic “makeovers.” Even when I havenâ€™t had the time to use examples from a class I am currently working with and have used a handout previously created with another class, there is very little detectable difference in the studentsâ€™ enthusiastic response. Just like any “makeover” the value of this tool is in the “wow” factor.
Now, in my writer centered classroom, the Before and After tool has evolved into a two part activity requiring students to produce the before and after examples themselves. Any time student writers have more than one draft, they evaluate one of their own earlier drafts, looking for a moment that has dramatically changed in a later draft. They “take a picture” of both the before and after; meaning, they copy both excerpts exactly as they appear. The second part of this reflective tool asks students to describe the changes, explain why they made them and what effect they were hoping the change will have on their audience.
Choosing the revised moment and reflecting on its improvement encourages students with varying levels of confidence. This reflection also sets students up to be more actively involved in their writer’s groups. Writers are now better prepared to participate in response groups and to interact with their audience, to see whether or not the changes they made will have the effect they wanted.