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Archive for July, 2011

How to Grade Writing

How can we effectively assess student writing? Should we grade upon effort, completion, standards, achievement, or improvement? Is our primary task to respond or to grade?

Here’s my take. We should grade based upon how well students have met our instructional objectives. Because each writer is at a different place, we begin at that place and evaluate the degree to which the student has learned and applied that learning, in terms of effort and achievement. But, our primary task is informed response based upon effective assessment. That’s how to grade writing.

For example, here may be an effective procedure for a writing task as it winds its way through the Writing Process: Read more…

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Common Core State Standards Fear-mongering

Writing Guides, English Handbooks, and Style Manuals

Remember using Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition back in high school and Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style back in college? Each resource provided tips on grammar, usage, mechanics, spelling, and composition. Many students found these resources to be indispensable writing partners for essays and term papers. Writing Guides, English Handbooks, and Style Manuals all provide useful tools to students and professional writers alike. However, print copies are often out of date as soon as they are published. With commonly accepted guidelines in flux, the resources of the web are much better suited to the needs of today’s writers.

Constantly updated, The Pennington Manual of Style has been designed to serve as a complete writer’s reference guide (not merely a guide to citation formatting) for fourth-twelfth grade students and their teachers… with one major improvement over the old Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition and The Elements of Style: This style manual is fully interactive with 438 downloadable essay e-comments to make essay response efficient and comprehensive. Teachers can SAVE TIME GRADING ESSAYS AND GIVE STUDENTS BETTER COMMENTS with this resource. Plus, teachers are licensed to print Read more…

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Why Using Essay e-Comments Makes Sense

Good teachers know that students need detailed, prescriptive, and personal comments on their essays throughout the writing process to make significant improvement. However, the process can be time-consuming and frustrating. It would not be unusual for a teacher to spend 15 minutes to red-mark and write comments on the rough draft of a five-paragraph essay, then repeat the process to evaluate the final draft. Even with that significant amount of time, comments would have to be concise and rely upon abbreviations and diacritical marks. The focus has to be limited to identifying what is wrong, not explaining why it is wrong. No time for examples or suggestions as to how to improve the writing. Maybe a quick positive comment. Exhausting!

Additionally, frustration mounts as the teacher has to write the same comments over and over again throughout a stack of student papers. Only to be exacerbated when, after receiving their graded essays, students simply glance at their final grades before cramming the essay into the bottom of their backpacks. There has got to be a better way… Read more…

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How to Write Effective Essay Comments

Conscientious teachers know that merely completing a holistic rubric and totaling the score for a grade is not effective essay response or writing assessment. Teachers may choose to grade and/or respond with essay comments after the rough draft and/or after the final draft. Using the types of comments that match the teacher’s instructional objectives is essential. Additionally, keeping in mind the key components of written discourse can balance responses between form and content. Finally, most writing instructors include closing comments to emphasize and summarize their responses.

Writing instructors classify the types of essay comments as following: corrective, directive, and facilitative responses. Read more…

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How to Add Essay e-Comments to Your Computer

Ever feel like a talking stuffed animal? Pull the cord and get one of thirty pre-recorded comments: “Needs more evidence.” “Your thesis statement does not respond to the prompt.” “Subject-verb agreement problem.” Instead of talking stuffed animals, teachers use their favorite red pens. Every teacher of writing knows what I’m talking about. The common student writing errors…

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if teachers could type and save their commonly-used “canned” writing comments to automatically insert into student essays without all the bother of copying and pasting? What a time-saver this would be! It’s easily done and you have the tools you need right on your desktop or laptop in Microsoft Word®. Plus, you don’t have to be a computer programmer to get the job done. Read more…

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What’s Wrong with Holistic Rubrics?

It’s a relatively easy task to criticize any measure of writing assessment. This is my chore in What’s Wrong with Holistic Rubrics. However, it’s a much more challenging task to advocate in favor of a specific writing measurement. That is my chore in a related article: “Analytical Rubrics.”

Let’s start with a brief definition: A holistic rubric is a criterion-referenced assessment that is often used to evaluate writing. The writing is assessed according to a set of criteria. Unlike analytic rubrics, the criteria in holistic rubrics are grouped and not separated into discreet writing tasks. Thus, multiple components are grouped by a defined category and are considered as a whole.

Holistic rubrics have two basic features: 1. the writing category 2. the numeric levels of performance.

Holistic rubrics are used to assess writing by the SAT®, ACT®, state standards tests, by many college admissions counselors, and by most teachers. If everyone is using them, they must not be that bad. Read more…

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How to Use the Computer to Grade Essays

Thought I’d share how I started using computers to grade essays and offer fellow teachers a great resource to provide better essay response and cut grading time by half. Years ago I played around with the Insert Comments feature of Microsoft Word® and learned how to put in and format the bubble comments. I started using these comments to respond to and grade student writing submitted by email. At first, I only assigned a holistic rubric score, made a few comments, and patted myself on the back for learning how to insert audio files for brief summary responses. Students loved this paperless process. Read more…

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Analytical Rubrics

Teachers use two types of rubrics to assess student writing: holistic and analytic. Of the two rubrics, the analytical rubric offers both teachers and students much more to work with to improve student writing. Holistic rubrics are fine for quick overviews and are the staples of performance-based standardized tests, such as the SAT®; however, they serve little instructional purpose. Check out What’s Wrong with Holistic Rubrics for more.

Let’s start with a brief definition: An analytical rubric is a criterion-referenced writing assessment. In other words, a student’s writing is assessed according to a pre-determined set of criteria. Unlike holistic rubrics, the criteria in analytical rubrics have been separated into discreet writing tasks.

Analytical rubrics have two basic components: 1. the specific writing tasks 2. the numeric levels of performance. For each of the Common Core State Standard essays in my Teaching Essay Strategies curriculum, I add columns for diagnostic, formative, and summative scoring, as well as one column for a response checklist and one column for a revision checklist.

 

 

 

 

Five Reasons Why Analytical Rubrics Are Helpful

1. Differentiated Instruction

As in the example above, the rubric can serve as diagnostic and formative assessment to enable the teacher to differentiate instruction. Charting these assessments on whole class recording matrices can help the teacher group students for efficient instruction, such as mini-lessons, or assign individual worksheet practice to help students master and apply writing skills.

2. Progress Monitoring

Because analytical rubrics isolate discreet writing tasks that are components of different writing assignments, performance level data can be charted on Recording Matrix from one writing assignment to the next. These data can be analyzed by class and individual performance and serve as progress monitoring.

3. Student Involvement

Analytical rubrics provide road maps for student writers to follow. Specific expectations are set at the beginning of the writing assignment. As in the example above, students can complete peer response checklists on each writing task and then use the revision checklist to respond to the teacher’s diagnostic assessment and/or the peer response.

4. Flexibility

Analytical rubrics allow the teacher to assess parts of a student writing assignment and not have to grade each writing task. Examples: A teacher might choose to assign an on-demand timed writing and then diagnostically assess and record levels of performance on variety of evidence. A teacher might choose to have a reader or parent assess and record levels of performance on spelling, punctuation, and citation format. A teacher might choose to work with colleagues in a read-a-round, with each colleague assessing a different set of writing tasks.

5. Language of Instruction and the Writing Process

Analytical rubrics provide the language of instruction for writers, peers, parents, and teachers to discuss each writing task throughout the steps of the writing process. These specific writing tasks help students and teachers plan, draft, revise, edit, and publish their writing.

Check out this complete writing process essay to see a sample of the resources provided in Teaching Essay StrategiesThe download includes writing prompt, paired reading resource, brainstorm activity, prewriting graphic organizer, rough draft directions, response-editing activity, and analytical rubric.

Get the Writing Process Essay FREE Resource:

Find essay strategy worksheets, on-demand writing fluencies, sentence revision and rhetorical stance “openers,” remedial writing lessons, posters, and editing resources to differentiate essay writing instruction in the comprehensive writing curriculum, Teaching Essay Strategies

Looking for a full set of analytical rubrics to match the Common Core State Standards essays? Find 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to the Common Core State Standards, the Essay e-Comments download of 438 writing response comments, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 Common Core informative/explanatory and 4 Common Core persuasive), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” remedial writing lessons, writing posters, and editing resources to differentiate essay writing instruction in the comprehensive writing curriculum, Teaching Essay Strategies, at www.penningtonpublishing.com. And, now, purchase The Pennington Manual of Style and the same bank of 438 Essay e-Comments found in Teaching Essay Strategies. Save time and do a better job responding to student writing with this practical writing reference guide. Sorry, Mac users. PCs only…

 

 

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