I am starting my composition course with a self-assessment of the students’ ideas about writing. I ask them to list all the things that make a “good” paragraph. They do this individually on their own paper. Then I ask them to draw a line after the last item. Next they get in groups and each person reads their lists. If they have the same item on the top of their list, they check it off. If they do not have the item and they think it is a good idea, then they write it under the line.
By looking at their papers, I begin to get an idea of what they originally thought about paragraph writing and what ideas they added. This short in class activity (about 4 minutes) provides a good starting point for my understanding of their ideas about paragraph writing. It only takes me a few minutes to go through their papers.
I will keep their sheets to compare their actual paragraph writing against their ideas as soon as they do their first inclass writing.
How do you pre-assess the ability of your students so that you can modify future lessons?