As a Reader you are a very important person in the lives of two young people. Not only do you serve as a real-life audience and writing coach, but you also provide a supportive, adult presence for youth, an asset many youth today lack.
Two things will greatly increase the impact of your role:
1. Being consistent. Please send back writings and your comments within 1-3 days of receiving them. Unresponsiveness kills youthful motivation. If pressed for time, a shorter response is better than a late one.
2. Focusing on content more than mechanics. By listening carefully and compassionately, you are giving your two teens a reason to write more and with more care. With lots of practice, writing skills and fluency will emerge.
Responding to Content
Writers LOVE receiving comments from you about the piece they wrote. They are proud of your responses and pass them around the classroom to share with other students. Typed comments printed on a separate piece of paper and attached to the original writing are especially appreciated by kids. Any corrections and short comments you make can be made directly on the students' writings. Here are some ideas to use for both:
- I wonder what would have happened if….
- This sounds like….or this reminds me of….
- I’m amazed at how you handled this.
- That took a lot of courage….
- My favorite part is when you talk about…
- I had goose bumps when…
- I like when you say….
How to respond when you read stories of struggle and conflict? Most students participating in Reader/Writer undergo traumatic situations and events, sometimes multiple ones. Whether she or he is an immigrant or born and raised in Minnesota, life for many has been deeply challenging on many levels.
We have found the best response is to acknowledge the challenges written about without extending a lot of advice, judgment, or sympathy. As a Reader you walk a line, often a fine one, between being a supportive adult (which may mean you sometimes make suggestions for navigating life) and being a compassionate but neutral listener.
Being a Reader is often a mix of the two. You can reflect to the student his/her own resiliency--and cause it to grow--through a combination of neutral listening and encouraging responses.
Finally, you are not a mandated reporter. All writings are at least scanned by teachers before being given to Reader/Writer to mail. However, you may still receive a piece of writing that troubles you; please email Lia at firstname.lastname@example.org with those concerns.
What to Do
Writers respond best to light, consistent editing. For example, if she/he misses putting periods where needed, you will want to put them in and follow up with a short explanation at the end of their paper of this and other edits you made. Please limit mechanical edits to two or three needed areas.
With your first mailed writings, we include a note to you of some patterns we see to focus first on. These are just suggestions. The idea is not to overwhelm the student with red ink, but to be judicious in what to edit. (Sometimes there's just so much to correct!)
Right now, Reader/Writer works with 7th and 8th graders who vary greatly in skill level.
While teachers consistently teach essay formatting, paragraphing, punctuation, word usage, capitalization, grammar and spelling, many students still require constant reminding. This is where Reader/Writer steps in. Your work as a Reader provides that careful consistent coaching that a classroom teacher hasn't time to provide.
In time, your students' skills WILL improve. Fluency seems to improve first, followed by structure, and t lastly, by mechanics..
- A youth appears to be asking for help of some sort
- You have a question or concern about what they are writing
- You don’t know how to support them or what to say
For all of the above and anything else that may come up, please email us.
If you cannot continue being a Reader:
We do understand that life happens and sometimes prevents a committed Reader from continuing with their young Writers. If this should happen, please let us know as soon as you can, and we will reassign your teens to someone else.