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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Entry Six: Assessing Writing- When and How?

            On the last page of chapter four from Tompkins’ text (2012), a teacher raises the question of whether or not we should grade all of our students’ writing. While Tompkins gave several solutions to the question, she never gave a concrete answer. In my opinion, I think that we would wear ourselves out if we graded every piece of writing and offered consistent and meaningful feedback. Tompkins (2012) wrote that “teachers need to ask themselves whether assessing each piece of writing will make their students better writers, and most teachers will admit that such arduous critiques won’t” (p.104). This comment contains a lot of truth. Most students, who are apathetic to writing, will not take the time to read all of the comments and critiques written on their writing. As a teacher who assigns and grades work for 11th and 12th grade coordinated studies, it is important for me to provide feedback on their assignments. Since I do not have face to face interaction with most of the students, I spend time grading their work and providing both positive and constructive comments on their assignments. Only one student actually takes my comments into consideration and reflectively adjusts her work. Sometimes it does get frustrating proving feedback when no one cares. I do believe that if they do not actually adjust their work, they still take something out of the comments and apply that the next time around. 

            In my other classes, I assign much of the writing as a grade. I do not critique their actual writing though. Instead I skim through the writing to get the gist and grade them based on the relevance to the assignment. If the student is writing and is missing the main point, I will occasionally write questions back to them, in an attempt to get them to be more thoughtful. Luckily, I have small classes so if I did want to grade every piece of their writing, I could. But what would the point in that be? Students would eventually write to appease me and my demands and not for themselves. Writing should be a form of expression and not always for a grade.

            Grading based on effort ties into another question from the chapter. Someone brought up to Tompkins (2012) the struggle of how and in what ways they should assess writing. The way writing is assessed should vary. If we use one consistent form of assessment, students do not understand ways to vary their writing. They will eventually form their writing to the expectations of the assessment. But varying what you are assessing in their writing, students will continue to grow and develop as writers. One week you can focus on the mechanics of writing. The next week you could switch to fluency or content. By teaching the 6 + 1 traits of writing, you could assess students assignments based on what trait of writing you are teaching them.

            From last week’s class, we used the Rubistar website to create rubrics based on the different writing samples. When I was finishing my multi-genre writing project for The Hunger Games, I turned to this website to help me create assessments for the different writings. This was really useful as my writings arranged from creating a newspaper, a poster, a formal essay, to forms of advertisements. I was having a hard time typing out everything I was looking for in their writing projects. By providing the rubrics attached to the guidelines, students know exactly what I am looking for in their projects.

1 comment:

  1. Katie,

    I enjoyed writing about your blog this week and I used it to reflect on my own assessment practices. I enjoy how you tie in exactly what you are experiencing in your classroom in your posts, it helps readers gain a stronger understanding of exactly what you are talking about and how you use it! I would also consider the use of informal assessment in your classroom. Would it be a realistic way for you to use assessment with your students?Specifically, when you were talking initially about your students not taking critique well, or into consideration, maybe informally meeting with them and asking them questions to really make them think about their work would help. It may also take some pressure of you!