Archive for the 'Essay' Category

English Essays – Grade or Assess? Done or Keep on Improving?

Today I returned my English students first essay. In my formative assessment manner,  I carefully explained that I want them to improvement in their writing during the course and to do so, I had to identify what they have done well and what they need to improve. Í  reminded them that the rubric  checklist has a plus (+) for doing well, a question mark (?) for inconsistent  work, and negative (-) for needs improvement.  I marked 20+ items on their checklist.  I did not give them a grade like a B since the grade tells them nothing about what they did well or have to improve in.  I also explained that, for each student,  I have identified the three areas that will lead to the greatest improvement. I stressed that I expect to see improvement in those three areas on the next essay.  They copied these three improvement areas on an Essay Improvement sheet that they will hand in with their next essay.  I explained that I will provide new strategies for those  learning gaps demonstrated by the greatest number of students at the beginning of each class.   More ideas are in my Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

How do you help your students  to continually  improve?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Constant Peer Review on the Same Essay Improves Student Writing

I  teach a college composition course.  We spend much time in peer reviewing (probably 70% of class time) in a formative assessment process. Today the students had their 6th peer review on the same “essay” and we are just up to doing  three body paragraphs.  I asked my students to do a questionnaire on the process we use.  About 15% said that they did not peer review in their high school English classes.  Of those they did peer review, they stated that peer review  focused on grammar, spelling and punctuation. As one student said of our process,  “we  focus on changing idea.”  Most students (80%) had not had more than one peer  review their writing; so far we  have had 6 different peers react to their writing.  As one student mentioned “you get a different view and different aspects about your paper from other people ” and “You receive others’ opinions using the same format you used to write it.”  My goal is simple: for students  to constantly improve in their writing.  Formative assessment which focuses on monitoring and giving feedback continually through the process enables students to improve in each aspect of their writing, starting at the pre-writing phase.  A more thorough description of this process is found in my Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

How often do your students peer review  each other’s work?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Revision as key to the Writing Process

Revision as key to the writing process

This graphic indicates an interesting aspect of the writing process.  Many students do a revision or possible two of their writing but they do not go through the constant revision that professional writers do.  However, the classroom teacher can build in many more revisions on the students’ work with little effort.

The students can peer review and revise their work as they do it.  For example, students write a thesis statement and then have  a peer assess it and give feedback based on the teacher’s guiding questions.  As the students develop their graphic organizer, other students can look it over for different categories, evidence and details and then the students can revise it.  As the students write their first body paragraph, another student can peer review it using a teacher-provided rubric and then the students can revise it.  The teacher can have writing strategies for that particular part of the writing process  to help the students who need additional assistance  in areas of the writing process or they can find other areas for peer review  as shown in my book Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

Constant assessment and revision improves student writing.

How often do you students receive feedback on their writing during the writing process and then make revisions?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Students vote to improve -Formative Assessment

I teach a freshmen college  English course. I’ve been using formative assessment throughout the course.  We do at least five very structured formative assessment peer reviews before we even write a draft (Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment).  During today’s class, we  peer reviewed a draft of their contrast essay.  I asked the class to vote whether they wanted 1)  to hand in their essays the next class which was just before  the vacation or 2) to do another  peer review  and have the essays due after Spring Break. I told them I would do whichever they wanted.  90% voted to have their essays peer-reviewed again. They wanted more formative feedback so that their writing could improve!  One student even boasted as he showed me  his peer-reviewed draft, “Look at all the ways I can do better!”

How do you use formative assessment to constantly assess students and to “instantly” help them to improve?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Formative Assessment Time = Success Time

This semester I am teaching  College Composition.  I find that my students’ quality of work has improved drastically since I use formative assessment. In the last essay unit,  the classification essay, the students spent over half of the time in formative assessment, mostly peer review.  We peer review each part of the pre-writing phase, starting with a narrowed topic.  Students constantly get feedback on their work according to the assessment checklists.  Their feedback is not a free-for-all, write whatever you want about the students’ writing; their feedback focuses directly on the assessment checklist.  They can give feedback  since they know whether the person has included a certain aspect such as a classifying verb or the evidence name.  I feel that they are about 90% accurate using the checklists.  In fact, I look over the previous peer-assessments before I actually assess the essay.  Since students have to have different students peer assess their work, they have different “eyes” to see their work.  Since each student gets feedback at least eight times during the writing process,  I find that  when I assess their papers, I do not have to  focus on the big issues (thesis, topic sentences, sufficient evidence, and detailed examples)  since the reviewers already helped the person with these. Each time we spend in formative assessment is time spent in helping students be more successful.   In a survey using Google forms, my students said that they made many changes (4.2 out of a five point where 5 =many many changes).  Also, they said that only 2.8 times in the past had their essay been reviewed twice or more.

How do you use build in formative assessment time for student success?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Formative Assessment Class Culture

Formative assessment requires a specific culture in the classroom.

For example, I tell my students that my job is to help them constantly improve.

I remind them that in this formative assessment class, I am a coach.  I will look for what they are doing well but, more importantly, I will look for how they can improve. An athletic coach constantly watches his/her players and constantly gives suggestions for improvement.

In addition, I will only ask then to improve when they can be given a  new strategy or approach that will enable them to overcome their learning gap.

I let them know that when I call on them, I will give them feedback.  If they want to become better in the class, they will offer their answer no matter how wrong  they think their answer is. Once I hear their answer, I can help them to become better.  If they keep quiet, I cannot help them. My feedback will focus not on what they did wrong but on how to do it correctly.

I remind them that they will be constantly assessed and be constantly  given strategies. For example, in the pre-writing phase of their essays, there will be seven assessments. Each formative assessment helps ensure they are on a success track.

I tell them that we build on successes.  We do something well, then we build on that successful learning  to reach the next learning goal.  Students feel very different in a class where they know that the teacher and their fellow students are there to help them improve in their learning.

Finally, I inform them that they are expected to do well in the course since we build on and reward successes.

What is your class culture?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Reponding to Your Students

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

Really Effective Technology or Not?

This semester I decided to try something different in my writing class.  After giving them a pre-assessment (writing an in-class essay), I determined that this  class was at the same level as last semester’s students.  My change for this semester was that  I taught the whole semester without using a single PowerPoint.

In all the previous semesters, I have had a PowerPoint presentation  each night that had illustrations,  certain words in different colors,  many visuals, etc.   I had noticed that my night class often went to sleep when I turned down the lights and used the PowerPoint.  Even though I asked them many questions and did interactive things, the class seemed lulled.  This semester it was just me and the whiteboard with the lights on.  I did have different colored markers. I did full up the board and erase it several times during the class.   I felt that I had more eye contact (could see their reactions better)  and more interactivity with the students (could show other  strategies when they encountered a problem)  rather than being the button-pusher for the next PowerPoint Slide.

The informal results  based on this semester’s last in-class essay  compared to the previous semester’s was that this semester’s students did just as well (really slightly better)  than last semester’s students.  The lack of PowerPoint did not negatively impact the students; in fact, they did better without it.  Teacher methodology (focusing on students’ present learning status)  matters more than technology!

How do you know if technology is a truly effective tool in your class?

My  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

My book,  Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Reponding to Your Students

Moving Away from Finals to Final Improvements

I do not give finals.  I do give students an  opportunity to show me how they have improved in the course. They show that the formative assessment done on their work leads to greater achievement.

For example, in my English Composition and Research college course, students select two essays that they have written and received three formative feedback on, identify how they will make the improvements on an essay improvement sheet,  and make the improvements in the essay. As an illustration, students receive three formative feedback on their essays that focus on the most critical areas for improvement such as their lack of details to prove the essay. They either receive an example or are referred to some examples.  On their essay improvement sheet, they copy the suggestions for change and then they  show how they will change  their previous sentences to include detailed examples.  They make these revisions to their paper.   When they hand in their “final” essays, they highlight in green all the changes that they made from the  previous version. They get graded on their formative  improvements based on the previous essay.    Their “final” essay grade replaces their original essay grade.

Such a “formative assessment final” drastically changes the usual concept of a final.

So what type final do you give?

My  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

My book,  Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Reponding to Your Students

A Writing Miracle With Timed In-Class Writing

In my college writing class,  for their last graded essay, the students have been writing in-class timed essays.  We started out with just doing the pre-writing organizing, moved to writing one period and revising  the essay the next period , and finally to a one period in-class timed essay.  About 80% of the students did as well, if not better, than their usual essay writing in which they spent 2-3 weeks per essay.  Most students were shocked at the high quality they could produce in one period.   Along with the essay, they had to hand in their graphic organizer with each essay- which included not only the thesis, evidence, and details but topic sentences, transitions, synonyms,  attention getter and an extender.   They found that the more time they spent on their organizer, the quicker they could “write” their essay.  Their  “writing” consisted of taking their ideas from the organizer and writing them out in full sentences.   Some students did not finish their whole essay but with their completed graphic organizer I could see what ideas they had.  The students had improved all semester so that they could reach this point. Their constant formative assessments help them to overcome their major and minor learning gaps.

In their class evaluation, numerous students mentioned that we should do more inclass  timed organizer and writing. They felt successful!

My new book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Reponding to Your Students

New Learning If Have Options

My wife just purchased an all-in-one printer-fax-copier.  The machines lists eight special features. However, next to six of the eight features, there is a comment such as  “Optional hardware/service needed to utilize this feature.”

I wonder how often we give instruction to students but we have not included the optional features.  As I talk and survey students more about their writing, I find out that my assumption that the students  already know “how to” or that they remember “how to” are not true.  The wonderful lesson of two days ago has not been internalized so that they do not use the new technique; they revert back to the learning gap.  Likewise, they face a new writing pattern and they suddenly disregard all the good writing structures they used previously.  Finally, they encounter a writing topic that engages them so much that they forget the writing pattern completely.  All subject areas have optional features.

As I break the writing process more into thinking units and have the students practice these ways of thinking, I find that optional features need to become part of  the standard writing process. I have to be prepared to help the students negotiate their thinking so that they use these features.  They have to internalize the formative writing process so that they can produce high quality work at any time and in any condition such as in an in-class writing essay.

How do you build in the options for success for your students?

Less in a Course For Greater Learning

The first semester that I taught a Composition and Research course, I followed the syllabus given me. I had the students do an essay a week. I did have high attrition and low grades. I felt like students were just doing essays without truly understanding how to do each one More importantly, they showed minimal or no improvement from essay to essay.

This semester I have reduced the essays by half. I am spending more time in helping students to be successful. We examine other previous students’ work and analyze how they developed their paper. We develop essays as a class. I build in check points along each major decision in the writing process. For example,the students have to show me their thesis before they can continue, they show me their categories and topic sentences before they can continue, they show me a detailed completed graphic organizer before they do their draft. They frequently peer review each other’s work. So far the first essay that I received from the students is already at the same or higher quality than the final essays of the students from last semester. I am looking forward to their second essay to see how they have improved.

Do you focus more on coverage or on student learning? How to build in high success with your students?

If you are interested in implementing formative assessment in the classroom, my book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Students is available through Eye-on-Education.

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?

Scaffolding Writing Handouts For Students’ Success

I’ve been revising my writing handouts for my next semester classes. I’ve tried to create a step-by-step approach  in the order that they would actually do the steps and then in the checklist I repeat the steps such as for a contrast paper:
“Do I include two items in my thesis?”
“Do I directly state that I am contrasting them?”
|…..
“Do I include a detail for the first item, a contrast transition word and then a detail for the second item?”

Hopefully, if the students have followed the step-by-step approach then they will just confirm those items in their actual writing as they do the checklist on their draft. If they have missed a step then, they can catch it in the checklist and revise it before handing it in.

My students have wonderful and dramatic stories to tell; they need a structure in which to tell them well. Hopefully, the revised step-by-step process will give them the scaffold they need.


RSS Education with Technology

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    Once teachers have selected what learning and what digital badges (individual or category badges; see previous blog), the teachers encounter another decision. What will they name each badge? Will they use the full name of the Common Core Standard or the national proficiency? For English, under “Speaking and Listening,”will they write out SL.2 “Integrate and […]
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  • Digital Badges: Better Than Grades? October 19, 2015
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  • Digital Badges: Individual or Categorized Learning Badges? September 12, 2015
    The idea of digital badges sounds appealing for the digital children in classes. As teachers start thinking about digital badges, they have to figure out what badges will be awarded. The teachers can award social or academic badges. If teachers decide to use academic badges, then the teachers may base their badges on the Common […]
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  • English +Common Core +Mobile = Success (ISTE2014 Poster -details) June 30, 2014
    Here are the ten examples I showed at my English + Common Core  + Mobile ISTE 2014 Poster Session: Based on CCSS Anchor Statements: L.2 Take a Conventions Mobile Online Quiz  to pick the  incorrect sentence from four choices (capitalization) SL.2  Evaluate audio recording of a  book chapter on mobile and predict for next chapter. […]
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