Educational experts state that writing is one of the most complex skill sets to teach students. Combining the syntactical rules with the structural restrictions of genre creates the fear, anxiety, and the dreaded writer’s block.

An answer to bulldoze through the blockade is Writer’s Workshop. The three part process consists of:

  1. A prompt (an idea, an image, a sound)
  2. Writing
  3. Sharing/Editing

These three steps help students express themselves in written form. Many will say that the hardest part is step 2-  the actual process of writing. As someone who has written quite extensively (theses, websites, articles for edtech companies), I can tell you that it takes a significant amount of brain power to compose.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Maya Angelou

Yet, I humbly assert that it’s the editing that is the hardest.  Why? Because once you have finished placing that final punctuation mark, your work is now a masterpiece in your mind. You put your heart, soul, mind, blood and anything else you had into your work. In your opinion, it is Beethoven’s 9th Symphony; Van Gogh’s Starry Night; Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express; Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon.

Dr. Seuss

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” ― Dr. Seuss

Yet, upon receiving feedback (when I was in school, it was the dreaded red pen of gloom and doom that marked up my papers), identifying ways to improve your paper, critiquing parts (or the whole kit and kaboodle), and magnifying errors, you feel as though you are being forced to eat a peanut-butter and tuna fish sandwich as you watch Bill Buckner let the baseball through his legs at the 1986 Red Sox World Series.

It hurts!

Stephen King

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Writing requires tremendous thought and energy. You are constantly rewriting. And then, when you finally think you have it done, others take a gander and chop up, chip away, and strike at your work.

Editing one’s work requires critical eyes and objective reading. Hence, it is best left for others to edit your work. Be it peer editing or “masterful editing” (i.e., by a teacher or professional editor), the feedback you receive will make your writing better. Period. That is the true purpose of Writer’s workshop. Compose. Create. Design. Spew. Then, have others hone in on your ideas, fine tune your structure, and chisel away the unnecessary.

Kaizena’s feedback tools - text, audio, lessons, and skills - help the author hone, fine tune, and chisel. Let’s take a quick look at how from both peer editing and teacher editing lenses.

Nick Hornby

“Anyone and everyone taking a writing class knows that the secret of good writing is to cut it back, pare it down, winnow, chop, hack, prune, and trim, remove every superfluous word, compress, compress, compress.”  ― Nick Hornby, The Polysyllabic Spree



                                                                                                       Peer Editing

I remember participating in Writers Workshop when I was in 6th grade (back when I had a pet Pterodactyl named Norm). My classmate Daniel and I were paired up to provide feedback. I took my job seriously. I wrote comments and questions about his story on `86 Red Sox World Series debacle. After 20 minutes the teacher announced it was time to share. I gave Daniel my paper and in return, he handed me mine, which was on the latest Star Trek movie (IV: The Voyage Home). We looked over our works, then at each other, then simultaneously raised our hands to acquire our teacher’s attention. She came over and we each said that we couldn’t read what the other had written because our penmanship was reminiscent of cuneiform (i.e., not legible). Our teacher asked us to type up our feedback.

We did so and then were able to appreciate each other’s comments and suggestions. Our papers were better off because we each provided written feedback that was non-judgemental (save for Daniel’s snarky comment on how there was no way the Vulcan neck pinch was real). Kaizena’s text feedback option would have been useful and saved Daniel and me precious time typing up our written feedback.

Tiffany Madison

“While writing is like a joyful release, editing is a prison where the bars are my former intentions and the abusive warden my own neuroticism.”

Tiffany Madison

                                                                                                     Teacher Editing

Kaizena provides an auditory feedback tool option. As an instructor, I recommend it. Hearing the other’s voice (including tone, inflection, rate) allows a deeper understanding of the sender’s meaning for the receiver. Let’s take an example:

Written comment:  Please focus on writing coherently. Your ideas are amazing but you jump from one to the next without connecting them. I am totally lost and confused. Please see me.

Now, listen to the auditory version of the comment (same words):

Notice a difference? The first one, you are hearing it in your head in your voice which could be misleading; did it sound overly critical? Negative? Ambivalent? The second one conveyed what I hope would be warm, exciting, and wanting to assist.

In addition to auditory feedback, knowing what the requirements are and receiving reinforcement on specific content/skill areas are helpful in the editing process. Before Kaizena, teachers would attach rubrics outlining the expectations of the assignment and the level of proficiency the student achieved. Furthermore, teachers would write “refer to” or “check out” as key phrases for the student to look up or back at sources (e.g., Refer back to the lesson on comma splicing. Check out what Spock said to Captain Kirk right before they rescued Chekhov). Kaziena’s lessons remove the step of the student looking up the sources because the information can be attached in the lesson. There is a twofold benefit to using Kaizena lessons in the editing process: (1) the teacher can direct students to the specific content/skill, thus eliminating any possible confusion, and (2) the teacher created an individualized knowledge base for that student to refer back and check out.

“Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.” ― Patricia Fuller

Writers Workshop is a proven way to help students of all ages improve their writing. Using Kaizena’s feedback tools, the editing process (the key component of the workshop) helps writers paint masterpieces collaboratively. Try using Kaizena when you facilitate a Writer’s Workshop. We would love to know how it went!

Ariel Margolis
Ariel has designed innovative instructional and e-learning curricula for more than twenty years. He is Director of Student Support Services and Adjunct Lecturer in special education at Hebrew College.
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