Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Red/Green Marker Writing

I never teach my pupils. I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.   Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

Oh my goodness, I nearly fell off my chair while I was watching last weeks webcast on the Whole Brain Teaching website.  Red/Green Marker writing is so fabulous I am a tad bit envious I didn't think of it myself:)  Still, as part of the WBT team we can definitely celebrate in the genius of it!!!

As a grade one teacher, I have always struggled to teach writing.  Being an English major in university, I always want my students to do more so I set the bar high!  Every year, it overwhelms some of my little sweethearts and no WONDER!!  Insert nagging voice here: "Don't forget your spaces, periods, capital letter rules, I by itself, touching the lines, spelling correctly, making sense, using correct punctuation, using a variety of sentence starters, never starting a sentence with and or because, word choice, voice, organization, etc., etc., etc....." I could go on and on and on!  It is so difficult to correct a student  because they usually hear the first comment and promptly forget the rest - and I don't blame them since I often do the same at staff meetings:) Hopefully, my principal isn't reading this!

Often during a writing activity, I would make one or two positive comments to my students about their writing and point out one or two areas to work on.  The problem with this method is that 1) it takes too long AND 2) it requires too many words - a lot of verbosity from me and too many directives for my little ones. Furthermore, too many criticisms can deflate some of the little egos of my students which is no good - so, what to do, what to do....hmmmmm....

Enter the fabulous, Whole Brain Teaching method, master of simplicity and all that is wonderful in teaching....wait for it....Red/Green Marker Writing!!!!

Step 1: Obtain a red marker and a green marker.

Step 2: Assign a time limit for writing.  For Grade 1, in September, I am going to start with 10 minutes and see how it goes.  My first assignment is usually finishing a sentence that I give them so that should be enough time.

Step 3: Establish ONE writing objective for that assignment, either with a mini-lesson or simply as a expectation for that assignment.  The Power Pix work wonderfully for this part!!  You may want to make a class objective - example, spaces between words, or, neatness.  You may want to differentiate for your advanced students by assigning them objectives, specific to each students depending on their skill base.  As you students advance in their knowledge of writing, you might have them write down their own chosen objective for that writing assignment!  Oh, tears of joy are overflowing, because I can't wait for my students to assess their own skills!!!  Imagine the success they will feel when they meet the goal that THEY chose for themselves!!  Can we say ownership!!!!!!

Step 4: OK, now here is where the blessed simplicity of the whole system comes into play.  While students are writing, walk around with your red and green marker.  For each student, put one green dot by writing that meets the objective.  Put one red dot by writing that could be improved.  Even your fabulous writers can improve their writing, so each student receives one green dot and one red dot per page of writing - that's it!!  No talking, no listing numerous writing rules broken - one positive, one area to improve on, and that is it!!  LOVE!!!!!!!!  I cannot WAIT to try this out!!!

Now, you may want to keep the same objective for many days/weeks, etc. until the entire class has mastered it, you may want to move onto another one if the entire class has mastered the objective consistently, or you may want to begin to differentiate objectives depending on the skills of each student.  It is up to you because it is your classroom:)  Did you like the Because Clapper?:)

Step 5: Teach another objective and then after a period of time and assessment, scaffold the two objectives.  This time as you walk around handing out red and green dots, look for both objectives to be met.  I am curious to see how this will work for me and for my students.  I am tempted, for simplicity sake, to stick with one objective, although still reminding my students that I expect them to continue to practice the writing skill, previously met.

Step 6: Reward writing improvements with the Super Improvers Wall!  During the webcast, Coach B pointed out that even if a few of your strong students are already, for example, spacing their words correctly, have them focus on consistently making the same amount of space between each word.  All students have room for improvement!

Well, my blogging buddies, September, here I come with my red marker and my green marker!!  Those little tykes won't know what hit them - they will be in love with writing and writing will be in love with them!


  1. Hi! I just found your blog! My 2nd grade team will beusing WBT next year and I am so excited! OMG!! I feel the same as you, Why didn't I think of the Red and Green Marker approach! This will make my writing assessments so much easier, and not just for me,but for the students as well!! I am now a follower!


    2nd Grade Pig Pen

  2. So glad you are on board!!! Now the real question is what order to teach the objectives? Any suggestions? Spacing? Neatness? Blending?

  3. What a fabulous idea. I teach high school Spanish. by the time students are in grade 12, they are expected to write up to one page essays. I have worked out an editing process that works relatively well, but this red, green marker sounds like it might work well. the more they write, the easier it becomes. Thanks for the great idea. ¡Caramba!

  4. Yay!! I'm glad you like it!!! I'd be interested to know how it works for you!! Keep in touch!!

  5. I am so glad I came across your blog. I teach 2nd grade and looking forward to starting WBT in the fall. The red, green marker sounds great too.