What is collaborative planning?

Collaborative planning is an activity which helps students explore and develop their plans for writing. Students talk about their ideas in a supportive, structured environment where peers will listen, prompt them to develop ideas further, and encourage them to think about their audience.

Typically, inexperienced writers focus all their energy on producing text. Instead of thinking about a paper's purpose and key point, its audience and text conventions, the student just launches into text. Going through a conversation with another student gets the student to think about form and become more assertive. It allows a student to move to another level of planning. The supporter does not co-author the text. He or she serves as a prompt by asking questions. What is your purpose? What is your key point? What are the text conventions? What do you think the teacher wants? How will the teacher respond?

At the outset, students will meander about, but the supporter needs to say, "What is your point?" It take time, but eventually, the student will move to a point. Unless they go through the process, you get the meandering as the paper.

After the session, the student is asked to reflect upon what they have done. Can they think about their own thinking and choose planning strategies on their own? A useful device in helping students to think about the ways they think is to record their planning session on a tape recorder. As they listen to the tape, the students should ask themselves, "Did I come to a point? Did I think about my audience?" They may want to transcribe key moments in the planning session. The student should include this type of reflection in their portfolio as evidence of the writing process.
Sample Collaborative Planning Project

Topic: Create Goals for the Semester
--a reflective piece of student writing which involves collaborative planning activities and emphasizes writing process

1. Brainstorm/ Pre-Writing
-- What kinds of writing do I do?
-- What are my strengths and weaknesses as a writer?
-- What part of the writing process is hardest for me? easiest?
( in class? journal? conferencing? thesis? rough draft? final?)
-- Where am I going this year?

2. Collaborative Planning
-- clarify your needs
-- clarify the value of past experiences
-- the supporter should help draw out examples
-- the supporter should help the writer analyze his or her response
-- the supporter should encourage the writer to consider audience and text conventions (essay form)

3. Letter of Introduction to Teacher
-- rough draft of "My Portrait of Myself as a Writer"

4. Peer Response Session
-- Writer/ Supporter exchange rough drafts
-- Attention to text conventions (essay form, proper expression)

5. Final Draft
-- in electronic form

6. General Sharing in Small Groups
-- excerpts and examples from well done papers
-- particularly interesting ideas

7. Assessment
-- collection of texts which fully document the writing process
-- content (development, organization, mechanics, style)

8. Portfolio
-- placement of project in Working Portfolio

Students: Active in Assessment

In order for portfolios to be effective assessment tools, students must be involved in evaluating their work. In most instances traditional assessment practices exclude
students' input, with student self-evaluation and goal-setting not necessarily connected to the curriculum. In contrast, portfolio assessment includes students' input.

With your assistance, students learn how to self-evaluate and set goals for future progress. Together, you reflect on work samples, noting strengths and needs. Not only is this collaboration bound to strengthen the bonds between you and your students, it also helps students feel more involved with their own growth and more personally connected to the curriculum.

Self-evaluation and goal-setting are skills that students will use and benefit from throughout their lives. 

To evaluate their own work, students need to know what makes a good piece of writing, what makes a good response to literature, and what makes a good response to knowledge acquired in content areas. One way to create this understanding is to work with students to develop and chart criteria for various types of writing samples. Using these criteria, students evaluate their strengths and set goals for improving future work. As students develop criteria for effective writing, self-evaluate their work, and set goals for improvement, they are actively participating in their own assessment and laying the foundation for more purposeful learning experiences.