September 6 2018

Let’s Take a Break!

How’s it going? In this post I want to take a break and give you a chance to do a quick review. I have written a variety of posts, but below are the seven key posts I think will help to get writing in your classroom moving in a positive direction. When you click on the titles you will go to the identified posts. So, get a nice cup of coffee or tea, relax, and read away!

6 Read Alouds for Discussing Personal Narratives

6 tips for Creating a Writing Environment

6 Tips for Decorating a Writer’s Notebook

Watching Student Writers!

Morning Pages

Closing Circle

 The Writing Process

How’s it going? Hopefully, you have laid the foundation for diving into your class writing time and writing with your students. Now let the work begin!

Happy Writing!

Sonia

August 8 2018

Watching Student Writers!

The start of the school year is full of assessments. We want to know where our students are as learners. In writing, I give a benchmark writing assessment to all my students. I do not grade this work as the purpose is to assess where students are in their writing at the beginning of the year. I like to do this close to the end of the first week of school or in the second week. I use this time frame because I want to give my students a little time to get over their nerves of being in a new environment and to become comfortable with me, their new teacher.

For the benchmark writing, students write a narrative piece. It can be a real or imagined piece of writing. In a self-contained classroom setting, I have given this assessment over three days. That sounds like a long time for a writing assessment! The reason I like to do this is to see how students tackle the writing process. As we will be using the writing process throughout the year, at the very start I want to see how much they understand it.

Each day, students will have 1 hour for their writing. This is not teaching time, but it will provide me with a variety of minilesson ideas. This is my time to observe and take notes about how my students are tackling their writing, their understanding of the writing process, and how they write independently at the start of the school year. I do not interrupt them while they are working and I do not take questions that will provide answers that will tell them how to do their writing. I want to see what they can do! My long term goal is for each student to become an independent writer. While the students are working, I walk around the room and write short, close watching notes about each student. I have specific questions in my mind as I make my observations.  I have shared some sample questions below.

Day 1 Prewriting and Drafting

Prewriting – Do some students brainstorm? Do some students create some sort of writing plan? Do any students go straight into drafting?

Drafting – Is there anyone who is taking a long time to get started? How did they do with their prewriting? Who is writing quickly? Who is writing slowly? Is there anyone who seems to be focusing more on neat handwriting instead of their story? Is there anyone who has finished well within the time?  Is there anyone who seems to be erasing every other word and making very little progress in their writing?

Day 2 Revising and Editing

Revising – Who seems to understand what it means to revise? Do many students seem to be adding, crossing things out, and making changes?  Are some students continuing to write their story?  Are some students writing a final copy of their work instead of revising?

Editing – How are they editing? Is anyone checking grammar, spelling, and punctuation? Is anyone ignoring this step?

Day 3 Publishing

For this writing assessment, all I require for publishing is for students to write a polished version of their story.

After the assessment, I carefully read each student’s work with my close watching notes in hand. From their work and my notes, I can learn how much they understand about the writing process, I can create a list of minilessons based on the needs that I have found in their writing and my observations, and I can create flexible writing groups.

On other occasions I have had to do this assessment in a much shorter time frame. It is tempting to skip this assessment because of a smaller amount of time, but a version of it is still doable. I modify the full length assessment by only focusing on prewriting and drafting. When I do this, I keep the same questions in mind. Usually, I can gather some information about their grammar, spelling, and punctuation learning needs from their short writing.

My Follow Up!

At the end of the school year, I give another benchmark writing assessment. As the students will have had writing instruction throughout the school year, I will grade their writing. Next, I return the first benchmark writing assessment and the final one to my students so they can see their growth. They are often wowed by their growth because they have the evidence in their hands. It is wonderful to see their excitement! Go ahead and try this and anticipate the smiles you will see at the end of the school year.

Happy Assessing!

Sonia