“Good writing” “Bad writing” Minimal writingLots of writing What’s happening in YOUR classroom?
Problem: ELA teachers can’t do it all; students need writing practice and instruction, especially for research and critical thinking in all of their content-area classes. Students can’t be expected to learn how to think and write like historians in their English classes; they need instruction and practice in their Social Studies classes.
Reality check: Make a list of the kinds of writing you do outside the classroom. Note to kids Shopping list Email message Message about a phone call Reminder to self to do something Discussion on Facebook Notes for class Directions (how to get somewhere) Summary of a faculty committee meeting Article for an academic journal Share your list with a neighbor… DBQArtifact to be gradedProof that I know something Items you do poorly Items you do well
Writer Subject What does the writer know about the subject? Reader What does the writer think the reader expects him/her to say or do? Text How anxious is the writer? How skilled is the writer? How well does the writer understand the assignment? How well does the writer know the conventions for this kind of writing? CONTEXT What factors (time constraints, distractions, fatigue, health) might affect the writer?
Writer Subject What does the writer know about the subject? Writing to learn. Writing to show learning. Using writing to discover, clarify, or make sense of new information or ideas. Low stakes or ungraded. Writer is his or her own audience. Using writing to demonstrate what the writer has learned. Moderate to high stakes. Teacher is the primary audience.
Low Stakes & High Stakes Writing “The goal of low stakes assignments is not so much to produce excellent pieces of writing as to get students to think, learn, and understand more of the course material.” Peter Elbow LearnShow Learning Exit Slip: Write two or three main points from today’s class, plus any questions you still have. Exam Question: Write and answer two items for an exam based on information from today’s class. Micro-essay: On one side of an index card, summarize the key points from today’s class. Poem: Express key ideas as a poem (haiku, limerick, etc)
Writer Subject What does the writer know about the subject? Writer can focus on the subject… …without worrying about writing skills …without worrying about conventions …without worrying about grades
Once the writer knows the subject… Writer Text …the focus can shift to the text. What rules must I follow? What should the final product look like?
Teach the format: rules, conventions, and anything else that might affect the grade Provide samples: AdequateExcellentInadequate
Writer Reader The anXiety Factor: GRADES “But I’m not an English teacher!” “But you ARE a history teacher, and historians don’t write the way English teachers do!” History teachers can teach how to write a DBQ, science teachers can teach how to write a lab report, and English teachers can teach how to write literary criticism.
The anXiety Factor: More anxiousLess anxious Make two lists: Previous failures Lack of confidence Lack of knowledge Previous successes Confidence Knowledge Items you do poorly Items you do well
The anXiety Factor: Clear GOALS* so students know what is expected Clear MODELS of successful work Lots of PRACTICE with low-stakes/no-stakes writing Success opportunities to create CONFIDENCE A “culture of writing” in which writing is the norm, not something extra, unknown, or scary
The anXiety Factor: Clear GOALS* so students know what is expected Clear MODELS of successful work *GOALS should be clearly explained: Scoring criteria Rubric
Pause to Process (or Write to Learn) List 2 or 3 points you find useful or that you want to challenge Explain your list to a neighbor
Our Goals: Help students LEARN the material Accurately ASSESS what they have learned Use “write-to-learn” assignments Use “write-to-show-learning” assignments Design Assign Explain/Model Practice Perform Assess
Traits of Successful / Unsuccessful Assignments… Traits of Successful Assignments Students have a degree of choice Students are interested in the work Students have a personal connection Work is relevant to student goals Assignment is concrete & specific: *clear instructions *clear expectations Teacher provides tools (scaffolding) and feedback along the way Models of successful & unsuccessful work are provided Includes low stakes elements before high stakes performance Is appropriate for students’ ability level and confidence level Traits of Unsuccessful Assignments High stakes without adequate practice Task is artificial (i.e., meaningless) Format is unclear Some terms are undefined Work has no clear value to students Work is beyond students’ capabilities Work is outside students’ comfort zone Work is outside students’ trust zone Work is overwhelming Think of your assignments. Which traits best describe them?
Task: What do I want students to do? What will students learn from completing this task? If I am trying to assess something, what am I trying to assess? What will I learn from reading the student work? (What will the work show me?) Sequencing: Can the task be broken into sub-tasks, or steps? Must students complete the steps in a specific order? Have I taught the skills and content necessary for each step? Writing Processes: How do I want students to complete the work – alone/pairs/groups? home/school? Will they practice any parts of the assignment in class? Have I provided written instructions, along with grading criteria? Have I provided information about length, format, use of sources, and other key elements? Heuristic for Creating Effective Writing Assignments (adapted from Edward White, Assigning, Responding, Evaluating, 4 th ed.)
Audience: Who is the intended audience – me (as teacher) or an imagined audience? Could I expand the audience beyond only the teacher? Has the class adequately discussed how to write for this particular audience? Schedule: When will students work on the assignment? How much time will they need inside and outside class? Do I need to build in deadlines for stages of the project? How does this assignment fit with what comes before and after it in the course? Assessment: How will I evaluate the work? What constitutes a successful response to the assignment? Have I discussed the criteria with the students? Have I completed the assignment myself? If so, what problems did I encounter? How can the assignment be clarified or otherwise improved? Heuristic for Creating Effective Writing Assignments (adapted from Edward White, Assigning, Responding, Evaluating, 4 th ed.)
Explain key terms, especially VERBS: List – name one by one, with comments as appropriate Outline – give a plan for proceeding in a logical order Summarize – state the main points in a concise way Review – give a quick survey of several positions Interpret – Explain in detail what something means Prove – Provide evidence to show that something is true Define – Present in detail the essential traits of something, and show how if differs from similar things (adapted from Edward White, Assigning, Responding, Evaluating, 4 th ed.) Be sure your verbs match the applicable standards.
Accuracy of content presented Appropriateness of the material Depth/development of ideas Quality of ideas Organization of ideas Likely audience reactions Stylistic issues Grammar/mechanics issues Aspects on Which to Comment: From Straub & Lunsford, 12 Readers Reading
Ways to Respond: Make a correction ("there" "their“) Give a command ("Move this sentence to the opening paragraph") Make a judgment *Absolute ("Awkward transition"; “Good point”) *Subjective ("I like this subject is trivial"; “I like this revision”) Offer a suggestion ("You might try to soften the tone here") Request a change ("Can you use a more precise word here?") Request additional information ("Can you give an example of x?") Ask a question *Closed ("Did you really mean to put this in passive voice?") *Leading ("How can you tie this point to the preceding one?") *Open ("What are some counter-arguments you might address?") React subjectively ("I laughed out loud when I read this line!") Give a related assignment ("Review the punctuation chapter") Acknowledge effort ("I can tell you're trying to add depth here") Offer encouragement ("I see improvement since last time") From Straub & Lunsford, 12 Readers Reading
Continuum of Responses No response Minimal, nonverbal, noncritical response Supportive, noncritical response Descriptive or observational response Critical response, diagnosis, or advice OR…
A rubric should… …list the criteria being evaluated …describe a performance at each rating level Ideally, the rubric should use similar language for each level within a category, so raters compare “apples to apples” when making judgments about that particular feature. Also ideally, students should have models of each performance level for each category.
Kinds of Rubrics AnalyticalHolistic Score = sum of scores for individual traits Score = reader’s impression of overall quality Usually Formative: intended to help the writer identify specific areas to work on Usually Summative: intended only to measure the quality of the writing Yields more informationQuicker & easier BOTH can be useful
Why USE rubrics? Identify the target Save time Avoid bias Be transparent about grades Prepare students for statewide tests
To be of any value to students, a rubric must be distributed at the beginning of an assignment, not at the end. Cautions: A rubric designed for someone else’s assignment might not be useful for measuring student performance on your assignment.
Remember: Not all aspects of an assignment are equal. If something MATTERS more, it should COUNT more (in terms of points on the rubric).
Design Assign Explain/Model Practice Perform Assess Repeat … Using Writing to Learn and to Show Learning
Pause (Again) to Process List 2 or 3 new strategies you plan to implement (or at least try) in your classes this year Explain your plans to a neighbor
What makes a fire burn is space between the logs, a breathing space. Too much of a good thing, too many logs packed in too tight can douse the flames almost as surely as a pail of water would. So building fires requires attention to the spaces in between, as much as to the wood. When we are able to build open spaces in the same way we have learned to pile on the logs, then we can come to see how it is fuel, and absence of the fuel together, that make fire possible. We only need to lay a log lightly from time to time. A fire grows simply because the space is there, with openings in which the flame that knows just how it wants to burn can find its way. (Teaching with Fire, ed. by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner) Fire by Judy Brown
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