Using Exemplar Writing the WRONG Way
Last night I attended a graduate class which ultimately inspired this post. During our class time the professor provided feedback on our most recent writing assignment. I was looking forward to ideas and suggestions to improve my writing at a graduate level. Instead, the class was given a lecture about how our papers were too long and did not exactly “look like” the exemplar models he provided to us. Ummm…what?
I have to be honest, a sense of rage boiled within me. I can only speak for myself, but I used the exemplar models he provided as a guide, but I attempted to create a writing piece that was better. I submitted an assignment which met all the requirements on the rubric, yet based on his feedback it didn’t “look” or “sound” the way he wanted it to. To be clear, he didn’t single me out, but it was apparent that anyone who personalized their learning was wrong. Anyone who didn’t write the way he wanted, was not going to receive full points. Grading without a connection to growth and learning seems pointless, but that is for another post.
Shifting How I Use Exemplar Writing
As I reflected on my own instruction of writing, I thought back to the times I provided my students with exemplar models. Why did I choose to do that? Did I expect their work to be exact replicas of my models? What was the goal in providing those examples?
As a special education teacher, modeling is a greater part of my day. I am constantly providing my students with examples and exemplar models. I will certainly continue to do so, however I am going to rethink how those models are presented.
I want my students to be exposed to high quality writing, but I also want them to have the freedom to personalize their pieces, and attempt to do it better. This year I am going to focus on expressing to my students that exemplars can be extremely helpful, but it should never constrain their ideas. In my classroom, I want my students to have the freedom to explore and experiment with their writing. I will also NEVER compare their writing to the exemplars provided. I want those models to be supportive, not evaluative.
Last night has provided me an opportunity to be more mindful about how models and exemplars are used within my classroom. So although it may have raised my blood pressure a bit, it certainly allowed me to reflect on my own teaching.