Formative Assessment for Essay Writing

I found a simple way to check students’ essay writing. I read their thesis and then read the first sentence of each paragraph for their topic sentences. Finally I read their conclusion. If the thesis, topic sentences, and thesis restatement in the concluding paragraph are not strong then almost always the rest of their essay is very weak.

I have students peer-evaluate by reading each other’s paper and underlining the thesis, topic sentences and restatement in the concluding paragraph if these sentences do support the thesis. Students soon realize that often the first sentence of their paragraph does not tell the purpose of the paragraph. Many times they dive into the topic without showing how it relates to the thesis. After they do the peer-evaluation, I offer students the opportunity to rewrite their topic sentences while the topic sentence idea is still fresh in their mind.

How do help improve your students’ work?

5 Responses to “Formative Assessment for Essay Writing”

  1. 1 wayoutinwayco June 10, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    That is an excellent idea. Not only will they realize that they need to include certain aspects to make their writing more effective, but will do so while they experience trying to make sense of writing that does not include these “mental prompts”. I am an elementary school teacher and a bit of a writer myself. I am presently taking part in a summer writing institute. I have done it once before and really enjoyed it. I hope that you enjoy what you do. It is so wonderful to have a teacher that truly values writing and can instill that in young people. I work with teachers that are afraid to write freely, on the board in the classroom or elsewhere. Keep up the good work. Perhaps we will open up just a little bit more of the world.

  2. 2 wayoutinwayco June 10, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    Maybe you can steer me in the right direction for my demo project for the summer institute. I want to present ways to teach writing through the tenets of constructivism. I hope I said that correctly. I have always believed that this is the way that I learned and the way the majority of people can learn, if taught in such a manner. In your vast literary travels have you come across such methods/strategies. I know it is pretty obvious that we construct or build on our experiences, but I need some specific ways/lessons that will demonstrate, through writing, how we do this construction. Any help will be much appreciated. Thanks. Wayout

  3. 3 hgtuttle June 10, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Some quick ideas:
    Students can create their own writing rubric based on examining other writing so that they can assess themselves on the positive traits that they found in other writing. Works really well and they better understand what good writing really is.

    They can also improve their writing through their comparing their essays with exemplars written using the same writing purpose (persuasion, narrative, etc.).

    Students can go from taking pictures of a topic to writing about it.
    Hope these help. Let me know what you finally decide on.

  4. 4 wayoutinwayco July 9, 2008 at 11:30 am

    hgtuttle, I decided to do my demo on Constructivism: Using Visual Tools for Building Knowledge. The demo is on my blog. It was received well by the Fellows at Summer Institute. I have always followed the Constructivist’s way of thinking, but when you get caught up in the presentation of all the CSO’s that we are told are a must, then your own ideas take a back seat. If all teachers would just follow what they know to be the best, perhaps we wouldn’t be in the pickle that we’re in. I know that some teachers could possibly make negative inputs, but we get that anyways. This is really the only two-way communication experience that I have had since opening my blog. I am technologically challenged to say the least. Thanks for the communication. wayout

  5. 5 Raza October 7, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Splendid article . Will definitely copy it to my blog.Thanks.

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