Jenny Chamberlain and I just wrapped up our collaborative writing project. As she explained, each of our students drew a monster and then used descriptive vocabulary to write about it so that another student could draw it for comparison to the original. While that was the stated purpose of the lesson, it turned into something else even better. I was hoping that the students would use the drawings to see where they could add more detail to their writing. I think they were happy with the final drawings and considered their writings final. I'm okay with that because this lesson really was about their journey to organize their writing, revise, and publish their work.
They got really excited about sharing with another class and they did multiple drafts without a single complaint in the hopes of sharing their writing in a clear and precise way with the first graders. I saw them take on kind of a protective role when they were creating feedback for the first graders and they really worked together to come up with some constructive criticism that would help the younger students hone their writing while encouraging them to build on what they had already done.
The part of the Colorado Model Content Standard 2 that they really got into was writing for a specific purpose and audience. At first, when writing, they jumped all over the place describing the eyes, then the feet, then back to the mouth and adding the body or some other part as an afterthought. When I explained that this might be confusing to younger readers they worked really hard to organize their descriptions by body area using colors, shapes, and specific words. They read their writing to each other and I overheard some of them saying "pretend you are a first grader and listen to my description". They ended up getting many rehearsals (drafts) before publishing.
I think next steps for our class is to have them revisit their writing in the spring and reflect on how they have grown since they first published this. I think they might enjoy doing another project using Voicethread which could make giving the feedback a little easier for emerging writers.