My wife just purchased an all-in-one printer-fax-copier. The machines lists eight special features. However, next to six of the eight features, there is a comment such as “Optional hardware/service needed to utilize this feature.”
I wonder how often we give instruction to students but we have not included the optional features. As I talk and survey students more about their writing, I find out that my assumption that the students already know “how to” or that they remember “how to” are not true. The wonderful lesson of two days ago has not been internalized so that they do not use the new technique; they revert back to the learning gap. Likewise, they face a new writing pattern and they suddenly disregard all the good writing structures they used previously. Finally, they encounter a writing topic that engages them so much that they forget the writing pattern completely. All subject areas have optional features.
As I break the writing process more into thinking units and have the students practice these ways of thinking, I find that optional features need to become part of the standard writing process. I have to be prepared to help the students negotiate their thinking so that they use these features. They have to internalize the formative writing process so that they can produce high quality work at any time and in any condition such as in an in-class writing essay.
How do you build in the options for success for your students?