Two Rivers staff explore the power of critique across disciplines and age groups, including a first-grade art class, a middle-school math class, and a middle-school English class.
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Critique is a fabulous technique to help students develop their own sense of what is important in their work.
– Bill Day, Math Teacher at Two Rivers
Collaborating to Define High-Quality Work
Critique lessons are opportunities to teach students the attributes of high-quality work.
Critique lessons are sessions in a single class in which students and teachers work together to define the attributes of high-quality work within a specific genre. The critique is focused on specific components of the work and is designed to improve the work of everyone in the class, not just the student whose work is being examined.
Two Rivers draws from EL Education’s three rules for giving feedback during critique: be kind, be specific, and be helpful. We introduce these to students and review them before every critique lesson.
When do you use critique?
Two potential times to use critique lessons are before students start working on a particular work product and after they have completed early drafts of a particular work product.
When using critique before students start their own work, the critique focuses on an exemplary model. This provides students with a picture of what strong work will look like. By asking students to critically examine a piece of high-quality work, they are able to determine specific attributes or strategies that they can incorporate into their own work.
When using critique after students have produced at least one draft of a work product, you reinforce a culture of revision. Highlighting one attribute that you want all students to master helps students develop a strong eye for quality over time.
How do you choose an effective piece to critique?
Choosing a piece to critique is one of the most important considerations in planning a critique lesson. If using an exemplar model, choose a piece that follows the conventions of the discipline and demonstrates the highest quality work.
If using work from your students, choose a piece highlighting a focus area that all students need to improve. This does not mean that the selected piece of work must perfectly demonstrate the focus area or be an exemplar in all aspects. Instead, the piece should demonstrate the focus area clearly enough to support students’ analysis.