for Working with Writing Groups
Watch a Writing Group in Action
1. The conference begins with the writer explaining what the piece is about.
The writer may ask the group a specific question that she would like the rest of the group to focus on, or state any difficulties that she is having, or may highlight the areas she would like assistance with.
The writer should not apologize or make any disclaimers about the work.
2. Next, the writer reads the paper aloud to the group while group members listen.
3. As the group members are listening they take copious notes keeping in mind what the writer shared during step one. These notes should include:
the main points the reader raises
words or phrases or passages that somehow strike them, stick in their minds, or seem important for some reason
questions they have – Questions may be posed in order to elicit more detail, see why an author made certain choices, or clarify anything the readers do not understand
4. At the end of the reading, the writer should allow time for the group members to finish taking their notes. This is a good time for the writer to read over her piece and think about things she may want to work on revising and any other questions she may have.
4. Group members then “say back” what they felt were the main points of the piece. This step in the process is designed to get at both explicit and implied meaning. Group member can say “What I hear you saying here is…”
This “saying back” may also directly address the questions, difficulties, and areas of assistance the writer requested feedback on.
As the group members share their feedback, the writer takes thorough notes. The writer should not simply rely on her memory because fresh insight is too easily lost. The writer should remember to restrict the urge to be defensive, instead listen to the readers and ask the group questions about why they reacted the way they did. This discussion must involve all group members and should emerge as a dialogue about the writing.
5. Group members then point out words or phrases or passages that somehow strike them, stick in their minds, or seem important for some reason. These comments are always positive, but must also be specific. The purpose of this step is to help the writer see interesting parts of the piece that she may have neglected, but which might be worth exploring and developing. It helps to see your piece in a different light as your audience reacts to it.
6. Readers will then pose questions that they have.
These questions are intended to flesh out parts of the writing that may be ambiguous or underdeveloped. Group members should phrase their questions in the following ways: “I was confused when…”, and “What I would like to know/hear more about is…” (Ex. If you wanted to tell a student that he/she needs a thesis, instead you might ask the student what she really wants to write about/prove/argue in his/her piece.)
The group members should NEVER give directives about specific revisions that they feel should be made. After all, it's not your piece. Final decisions are made by the writers.
7. The writer asks for any clarification that she needs. The writer should also check to make sure that her initial requests, that she expressed during step one, have been addressed.
8. The conference ends with the writer explaining the next steps she will take in revising her piece and thanking his group for their help. Response notes should be kept by the readers and will be submitted with their next draft.
*After all steps have been completed move to the next writer.