Last semester I had several sections of the same English class. Idid some action research. Both classes had about the same average on the last essay so they were equal in ability. In Class A, I explained in detail how to do a classification essay for a full period; I went step by step through how to develop this essay type. The students did several exercises. In Class B, instead of explaining a classification essay, I went over two classification exemplars and pointed out what the writers had done. The students highlighted the classifications, characteristics, etc. Each class worked through the writing process for their own classification essay and wrote their draft. I did a quick grading of the drafts of both classes by using a classification rubric. Class B with the exemplars averaged more than a full letter grade above Class A with explanations. As one student in Class B explained, “It was easy. I knew how to organize the essay.”
Let’s show the students the end product we desire (the content and quality) through the work of previous students and help our students to understand that product.
Which do you do more of telling or showing?
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My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.