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Monday, October 22, 2012

Entry 6: Assessing Writing

“What is the best way to assess my students’ writing?”…This is a question I have struggled to answer since I began teaching.  It is hard to decide on the appropriate assessment when there are so many to choose from.  My goal as a teacher is to always be fair and support my students as growing learners.  Therefore, I believe it is important to utilize a variety of writing assessments in order to “…improve the reliability, validity, and fairness of classroom assessment” (Tompkins, 2012).  What is fitting for one writing piece may not be fitting for another, which is why I have difficulty choosing which type of assessment to use.  However after reading chapter 4 in Tompkins, I have developed a better understanding of how to appropriately assess my students’ writing.

As a student myself, I also struggle with writing, and it is important to me to not turn or scare my students away from it.  Currently, I am working towards finding a balance between correcting students’ errors and letting them write freely.  I have come to the conclusion that it depends on the piece of writing as to whether I should mark it up or let it be.  I no longer grade their journals based on writing conventions, but rather on the development of their ideas; however, I do correct their published writing pieces as a way to guide them in their writing.  As a teacher I strongly believe that you have to make mistakes in order to learn and grow.  I continuously stress this idea to my students in order to make them feel comfortable to take risks in their writing.

Tompkins (2012) discusses the importance of having students create a portfolio of their writing pieces.  I think they are a beneficial tool for teachers because they clearly document each student’s progress.  Portfolios also allow students to reflect on their growth as writers and compare where they are now to where they started, which I believe is a very rewarding experience.  I agree with Tompkins, that “reflection is part of the writing process itself…” (p. 100).  You cannot expect your students to become successful writers if they do not take the time to reflect on the mistakes they have made and learn what they need to work on.  Therefore, it is essential to provide multiple opportunities to conference with your students and discuss their writing pieces.

There are many assessment tools that I am taking away from this chapter and hope to utilize in my future classroom.  First and foremost, I will informally monitor my students’ writing progress, by observing them and keeping anecdotal records, as a way to guide my instruction and provide effective teaching.  Secondly, I will differentiate my forms of assessment in order to give my students clear expectations and support them in their writing.   Lastly, I will make time to conference with them in order to get to know them as individuals and guide them in their writing.  I strongly believe every person is a writer inside, and it is my aim to bring that out in all of my students.  

Tompkins, G. E.  (2012).  Teaching writing: Balancing process and product (6th ed.).  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill


  1. Kelly, you raise some important issues here. It would be great if you could allow yourself to elaborate further.

    For example, how will manage informally monitoring your students' writing progress? How will you keep anecdotal records? Will you have a list of behaviors you are looking for?

    Second, can you give an example of how you will differentiate your forms of assessment? I am not sure I understand what this means. Share with your readers what this would look like and for what type of writing project?

    Third, how will you manage holding conferences? Will you try and conduct so many a day?

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  3. Kelly, it appears you are a little behind on writing your entries. This entry should have been posted by 10/16 at the latest...yes? Please be sure to keep up with the weekly assignments. At the time I am composing this response (11/4) you should be in the process of composing your Entry #10 (to be completed before or after Session 11).

  4. Dear Dr. Jones, I apologize that I have fallen a little behind on writing my entries. I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately between my three classes. However, I have taken time to re-group and I plan to be all caught up on my entries by this coming Wednesday 11/7.

    In relation to informally monitoring my students, I would keep a folder for each individual student in my class. The folders would have tabs for each subject, learning profiles, behaviors, etc. Throughout the day I would jot down notes (on sticky notes) as I observe different students, and then place them in the student's folder at the end of each day.

    When I say, "I will differentiate my forms of assessment in order to give my students clear expectations and support them in their writing" I mean I will use different forms of assessments for different writing pieces; for example, I would use authentic assessment tools (rubrics) when assessing a student's writing portfolio and informal assessment tools (checklists) when assessing a student's rough draft.

    I think it would be extremely difficult to conference with all my students every day. As a result, I would have weekly meetings with each student to get to know them as an individual and guide them in their writing.

  5. Thanks Kelly for expanding your thinking here. This really provides a better sense of your effort to use writing to explore the ideas presented in the readings.