Strategies for Effective Writing Instruction and Assessment
- Make sure students know the criteria for good writing.
We can expect students to produce good writing only if they understand what good writing is. For example, a student writing a personal essay needs to know that personal essays express the writer’s thoughts and opinions, often incorporate personal anecdotes or experiences, and are usually written in a less formal style than a literary analysis or other forms of essays. In an assessment situation, it is only fair for students to know how their work will be judged. Knowing the criteria for good writing will also help students evaluate and revise their own writing before it is submitted for teacher evaluation. When you give students the criteria, discuss what is expected of them.
- Let students help develop the criteria.
If it is feasible in your classroom, have students get involved in determining the criteria you and they will use for evaluating a piece of writing. This will give students a sense of ownership and will help them to see why a given piece of writing does or does not meet the criteria.
- Explain to students how their writing will be scored.
Students should know how you will be scoring their work and how to interpret the scores. For example, a student who receives a 3 on a composition should know what the score means and on what criteria it was based.
- Evaluate the writing process, not just the final product.
Writing is a process of steps, from the idea to the finished manuscript. Students will improve their writing as they increase their ability to complete each step in the process. An assessment of student writing that includes review and discussion of each step will help students understand what works in their writing and why it works.
- Provide opportunities for feedback.
Whenever possible, give students feedback about their writing to help them understand their strengths and weaknesses and identify what parts of aspects of their writing need to be improved. Providing frequent feedback can also be valuable in helping identify patterns for growth, providing direction for a student’s individual development, and helping students improve their abilities to assess their own work and respond to the writing of others. Feedback may be provided in writing or in conversation during conference with the student. Different kinds of feedback may also be provided through peer assessment.
- Encourage self and peer assessment.
Students can develop a clear sense of their abilities by evaluating their own writing. For example, you might have students evaluate their own works, assign their own scores, and writing brief notes explaining why they think their scores are accurate. Then, after you score each paper, you and the student can discuss why your scores might differ. Peer assessment can also be a valuable tool throughout the writing process. Students can discuss their ideas with their partners, and partners can act as the audience during each stage of the writing. Students can also work in groups of three or four to hold writing conferences. Find a way to tune into these conferences without becoming an instant authority in the conversation.
- Incorporate assessment into the instructional process.
Instead of viewing assessment as a final judgement, work to make assessment, teaching, and learning all part of a continuous cycle. Encourage students to revise, expand, and rewrite at all points in the cycle, for reasons other than receiving a score or a grade.
I hope that these are informative and helpful as teachers in our district continue to focus on writing instruction within our district RTI focus on literacy. For anyone reading this, please do not hesitate to post comments or contact me directly.