3 Tips to Assess Writing Faster


Providing student writers feedback is
essential for their growth. However, this is often a dreaded facet of the language
arts teacher’s job description. There are several ways we can streamline the
assessment process to make it more efficient, and all of it stems around
utilizing rubrics. The first big aha for teachers is to know you don’t have to
score for everything. Just because there are six traits doesn’t mean you have to
score for all six. If it’s a first draft, maybe you let go of conventions–you know–the spelling and the grammar. And don’t worry about all of that in the first
piece. You may at times not worry too much about sentence fluency–except in
your poetry unit where you really have been working on that and want to be able
to score for students’ attempts. So the first way to make assessment go a little
faster is to only score for the traits or facets of writing you’ve been
instructing on. And make sure you tell the students which traits those are. A
second way you can streamline the assessment process is to be conscious of the number of levels in your rubric and which ones have criteria. All rubrics
include levels and traits–the ingredients you’re scoring for. Each
trait has to be described in what it looks like at a high level, middle level,
and low level. But only three levels on a rubric is kind of hard to work with, so
most teachers end up including four, five, six levels on a writing rubric. So if we
take the criteria and stretch it out among say five levels, then most teachers
assume they have to fill in the second and fourth level. This is where I think
we have our problem. We struggle to define the difference between these two
levels and these two levels. We think we need to have wording here, but it’s all
kind of semantics. Think of it like this: There’s black, white, and gray. That was our high, low, and middle. Once we stretch those, you don’t
have to actually describe darkish lightest gray and lightest darkest gray.
It’s there that we start to create too many fuzzy levels. You can have five
levels on a rubric, but what if you only described the high, the middle, and the
low? Students can get a level two for this trait or a level four for this
trait, but we didn’t actually describe it. Have you ever scored and you wanted kind of an in-betweener? Can we give a two and a half between this level and this
level? Well, no you can’t. You have to be able to choose a whole number. So if we
have a black level and a white level and a gray level that are described, kids
can fall in between, but we don’t actually describe it all. The value of
these in-between levels is if a student does not achieve all three of these
criteria. He accomplishes one of them and a couple at this level. It’s obvious he
then scores in-between. A third way to streamline this assessment process for
both teachers and students is to create an anchor paper that hangs off each
level. Some of our students are more visual as learners, and so all those
words and the criteria is going to be a little confusing for some of them.
Whereas if they look at what they wrote, and they compare it against the high
example hanging off the rubric, the middle example hanging off the rubric, or
the low example, they can better assess where they are in the process.
Now when you create these examples, two quick tips. Number one: Make sure all the
examples hanging off the rubric levels are on the same topic. Second tip is
whatever samples you hang off that rubric, make sure they’re not on the same
topic students are going to be assigned. They’re simply going to copy the really
good example and put it into their own piece. And when you’re choosing these
examples, be sure that they’re not from your students because who wants to be
the low example. And I don’t want kids to think that they’re already at the
highest level and have no improvement to make. When trying to increase the
efficiency of grading or scoring student writing, we’ve decided we need to stretch
our levels across providing in-betweeners, and we might add in anchor papers or
benchmark papers so both teacher and students know what each level looks like.

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