This week I used a new Writing to Learn practice with my students: Writing in the Zones. I first encountered the practice at Bard Institute for Writing and Thinking, and with a bit of guidance from Carley Moore I was able to adapt it into a 5th Grade friendly writing activity. In it's original form Writing in the Zones is already quite accessible to writers of all ages, as it involves dividing a large sheet of paper into several sections, each of which is filled with the response to a specific prompt about a single text. The practice is fast-paced, relies on writing and drawing, and involves peer feedback, which makes it an ideal activity for students.
Writing in the Zones as a way for my students to reflect back on the novel we had just completed in class. However, it is a writing practice that can be used with texts of any length, so long as they are complex and meaty enough for students to sink their teeth into. As we're at the end of our school year and running out of time for larger assignments, Writing in the Zones was a perfect final 'project', but it can also serve as a pre-writing assignment that leads to essays, papers, or even poems.
After we completed our 'zones,' I asked my students why this was a valuable experience. A sampling of their responses:
"It made me think about the book in a different way. I paid closer attention to specific words or poems when I was writing about them."
"It felt like we were taking notes on the book, like we were preparing for an essay."
"I liked getting to express my feelings about the book and getting to read other points of view."
"All of my annotations in the book made Writing in the Zones much easier. I liked being able to look back and find my notes to use for my writing."
"This was like a bunch of different mini writing assignments all at once."
"I liked that each zone was different. Some were harder than others."
"This assignment was a chance to ask questions to the book, express my curiosity and explore how I felt about it."