Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Assessing Student Writing

Writing is a primary focus area for our fourth graders.

They write persuasive arguments, stories, informational text, film scripts, explanations, and more.

We start the year with the establishment of writer's workshop, and then we guide students through a number of focus lessons, writing workshops, and home study assignments/share.

Today, I'm about to assess students' mid-unit narratives.  After about five weeks of focused attention to narrative, students spent a day planning, drafting, revising, and writing a final story. Based on work with Leslie Laud (Literacy Consultant), past experience with MCAS tests, observation and formative assessments, and my own work/study with regard to writing, I created this two-part assessment sheet.

As I read each story, I'll complete an assessment sheet for each child online.  Later I'll print the sheets.  Before I share the assessments with students, I'll ask students to rate themselves with a similar template as they reread their stories.  At next week's parent conferences I'll share both the student/teacher assessments and stories with parents, and we'll discuss ways to encourage further writing growth at home and in the classroom.

I don't like connecting a child's writing to a numerical score as I prefer a narrative response. Yet, for some, the numerical score helps to focus work on the areas in need.  As I share the assessments and assessment activity with children, I'll downplay the numerical score, and emphasize the strength that comes with the ability to tell a story well.  I'll also acknowledge that there are many ways to tell a good story, and that overtime each student will strengthen their individual writing voice, style, and craft.

Also, as I assess students' work, I'll make a list of the lessons to come for the second half of the unit--the teaching/learning that still needs focus. I know already that those lessons will include topics such as "show don't tell," COPS: capitals, organization, punctuation, spelling, revising/editing strategies, and a specific focus on similes. I'm sure I'll uncover other focus lessons as I read their stories as well.

The coffee is ready, the work space set, and now it's time to dig in and read 23 wonderful fourth grade narratives.

Does this process look similar to the process you use for narrative review and response?  What else do you do to encourage students' writing craft, voice, and development?  Ideas, debate, and thoughts welcome.