WHAT IT IS:
From Teaching Adolescent Writers (Gallagher, 2006), RAG (Read-aloud Groups) Competitions is a sharing and revision strategy that employs peer evaluation and discussion.
HOW IT WORKS:
In general, the purpose of RAG Competitions is to ultimately identify the characteristics of strong writing for a given assignment while giving students an authentic audience and a collaborative approach to evaluating peer writing. The activity follows a specific process of seven steps repeated as noted below.
- Students bring unmarked, hard-copy drafts to class. These drafts should not have names on them but instead a random coded identifier (best for teacher to provide).
- Place students randomly in groups (best if groups are balanced, not based on level).
- Students then collect their drafts in one pile and pass them to the next group (no group should ever evaluate their own drafts). With a group of random drafts now in hand, each student should receive one draft. For 1 minute, ask students to read the draft in hand (the time is not generally enough to finish the entire draft but enough to at least get a sense for it–if needed, more time can be provided depending on the length of the assignment).
- After the time ends, students rotate drafts within their group, repeating step 3 for each copy until all students in the group have read all of the drafts.
- Once each member has read each draft, the group is then given 2 minutes to discuss the collection of writings with the purpose of identifying the best writing. The hope is that students will debate the merits of the texts before them.
- One student in each group should then record the coded number of the writing that group selected as best.
- At this time, have students pass the collection of drafts to the next group and repeat the above steps until all groups have read and evaluated all collections of writings (except their own).
These steps conclude the activity for students. At that time, the teacher then tallies up the votes from groups to determine the best 2 or 3 writings for the class and reads each of those aloud. The teacher instructs students to have notes out while listening to the read-alouds, noting what aspects of each appear to demonstrate strong writing. Discuss as a class what features of those writings demonstrate excellence.
As author Kelly Gallagher notes when describing this strategy, it is best performed after students have completed drafting and some light editing but before final drafts of a task are due so that students can implement revisions based on the experience and discussions. All students should be encouraged to review their own writing after the RAGs based on those strength areas discussed in the exemplary work.