Posts Tagged 'Essay'

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

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

Using Writing Formative Assessments for At-Risk students

Recently I received an email from someone who had purchased my Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment.  She said that she was, at first, shocked by how I had objectified English by breaking each part of the writing process down.  She said that she had assumed that her students “knew” all the basic things about writing. However, when she began to use the book’s formative assessments for each part of the pre-writing process, she quickly found out that they did not. She  realized that they became stuck very early in the writing process and, therefore, did not move forward.  She told me that she never thought about giving students different strategies to overcome their writing gaps; she just assumed their present writing strategy was effective.  She used some of the book’s  various strategy to help them.    She commented that she could see success in her students as they used the strategy.  She ended up by saying that she was now aware of how much structure students need to be successful and how these formative assessments provided that structure.

Obviously, I felt good about her comments.  The writing formative assessments  that I included in the book were ones that I have used  in a college writing course that I teach. Some of the students in the class dropped out of school in six grade and am now working on their GED as they are taking college courses. My job is help these “at-risk” students  to go from six grade writing to college level writing in one semester.  Through the use of constant formative assessments I can guide them from where they are to where they need to be so they can  write college-level academic essays. The writing  formative assessments build in student success and  build in student confidence in their writing.

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.

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

Baby’s Learning and Our Students’ Learning

My wife and I  have taken care of our ten month old grandson for two days.  He  now puts Cheerios in his mouth.  He cannot yet feed himself with spoon. Life skills take a long time to develop.

I teach a college composition and research course  in which I spend the whole semester in having the learners develop their essay skills. Most students come in with a very low level of skill. Numerous students write their first essay as one long paragraph with no introduction, no conclusion, no major categories of proof, no evidence and no detailed examples. By the end of the course,  they can write a full five paragraph essay in 50 minutes. We constantly assess and improve upon the various skills in essay writing until they can skillfully use them.

I wonder how much time we spend in our classes in teaching the life skills of our course. Do we give our students prolonged time to learn, practice, and be assessed on their critical skills?  Do we consciously build on the skill over time to get it to a proficient level?  Do we revisit the skill to help them increase in their level of the skill? Do our students finally reach a level that they have developed a life skill of our course?

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

Reponding to Your Students

How valuable is Peer Review?

When my students hand in their final English essay, they also hand in their peer reviewed draft. I’ve noticed that usually they do not incorporate the changes that peers suggest.

I gave them a survey on peer review to help me better understand their use of peer’s comments. They admitted that they use very little of peer review.

Some of their reasons:

The reviewer isn’t as smart as I am.

I don’t care what they “feel” about my paper. What is good/bad according to the rubric?

They don’t understand the rubric.

It does not help me when a reviewer finds a mistake if he cannot tell me how to fix it.

They don’t understand my thinking/how I wrote the paper.

The reviewer found some spelling mistakes but missed the big things like my first body paragraph having two topics.

They don’t try/ they do not  take it seriously.

How well do your students peer review each other? How valuable is the peer review to the author?

For any one who is interested in implementing formative assessment in the classroom, my book,
Formative Assessment: Responding to 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?

Embedded Testing or Random Testing

A colleague was sharing a humorous story about assessment. The students in his college have to take a post-writing test to show their improvement from their first writing at the college. They have to write an essay based on the same five topics.

However, the irony is that the students who are in his business writing course which is the final English course for the students are the ones being asked to write the post-writing. In the business course, they write business letters according to very strict formats.

Having them write an essay in the business class is like assessing a pizza maker on how well he writes checks. The pizza maker certainly writes checks but those checks are a very small percent of his/her time. The pizza maker spends most of the time in making pizza. Maybe the pizza maker can be observed as he/she makes pizzas just as our students can be assessed doing regular classroom writing in their essay class, not in their business class.

How and when do you assess students? Are they doing things that they would normally do as part of your class or is the assessment a random event outside of their normal tasks?

Revisions and Formative Feedback: Getting Better

As my students have been handing in their essay revisions, I have come to the realization that I am improving in giving formative feedback. When I notice that students have not made critical changes in their revisions, I discover that my earlier statements feedback statements are not specific enough such as for descriptive essay comments like “Refocus this to be descriptive. Describe things in detail”. These comments are still too vague for the students to know how to improve.

I am learning to be more precise and to include examples. A much better formative feedback would have been “How can you make this more descriptive? You might consider showing many of the senses (sight, sounds, smells, tastes, texture) so that the reader can experience being there. For example, you may use expressions like “a blistering hot day”, “my heart beating like a drum solo” and “her eyes danced with the deep blue color of the ocean” so that the scene comes alive for the reader. What senses will you include? (The examples were modified from the student’s own writing.)

In my more recent formative feedback for writing, I limit my feedback to two to three critical issues and provide very specific examples. Then when I get back the students’ revisions, I can see that they have integrated those critical changes into their papers. The changes in the students’ papers depend on my formative feedback. If I am vague, then they make vague changes.

What type formative feedback do you give?

 

Writing Types Quick Diagnostic – Quick yet meaningful information

I do not want to teach my writing classes with blinders on.  I want to know the students’ entering perceptions about writing and their actual writing skills. I made up a quick online survey on  Zoomerang. The survey asks the students

To identify if they have done this type of writing
If they have done it how many times 1-6
How well they think they do it 4 (very good)-3-2-1(beginning level )

Narrative (Telling a story)
Definition (What something means)
Classification (Categories of something)
Process (How to do something)
Illustration (Explaining something)
Description (What something looks like? Mood?)
Cause and Effect (What caused something? What was the result?)
Comparison (How similar or different are two items?)
Argument/Persuasion (Convince/Persuade about something)
Research Paper

For them to identify their favorite type of writing and why
For them to identify their least favorite type of writing and why

What they do well in their writing?
What they would like help with in their writing.

As soon as they have completed the survey, I have the compiled results.  I now have meaningful information to help me plan the course.  I will change it to help them move forward in their writing.

Non Graded Formative Assessment Rubric for Writing

I’ve been using a non-graded formative assessment rubric in my college English classes for numerous classes. One student had missed many classes and when he got his essays back, he looked at the rubric and said, “There’s no grade!” Another student explained, “He circles the score (4- above proficient, 3- proficient, 2-progressing 1- beginning ) for each individual part of the essay.” She added, “Look for circles in the threes and fours, that’s when you’re getting good at it.” She commented later to me that she can see her progress as her circles in many categories have moved from 1s to 2s and now to almost 3s. She said that she looks at the low scoring circled areas and tries to work on them for the next essay. Furthermore, she commented that I usually go over the low scoring circles the next class with additional hints for improvements. The young lady admitted that the smaller circled areas tells her more about what her strengths and problems are than a grade could.

How do you assess your students work?

TeacherTube Not Grown Up

I had looked at TeacherTube.com many months ago. The premise of TeacherTube.com is that teachers and students will put up educational videos other educators and their students When I went to it recently, I found that it has not grown up very much.

When I searched for paragraph writing, I found 0 entries. When I used “essay writing, I found 9 entries of which 7 were commercial. When I widened the search to “writing”, I found 9 entries that actually dealt with the writing process (5 of them were commercial).

On the other hand, when I searched in YouTube.com for “paragraph writing”, I found 5 entries. When I searched for essay writing of the reported 300, about 50 actual deal with real writing (not making fun of it). I tried using “essay writing” -funny as a search term to get rid of some of the non-instructional ones. The search for writing revealed about 5,500 entries; I did not have the time to count those that actually were instructional.

I had great hopes for TeacherTube but they have not come true.

Writing Rubrics Too General To Be Helpful

I have been searching online for writing rubrics for the different types of writing such as classification and argument.  I am amazed to find out that most writing rubrics are generic.  Since these rubrics are so general, they do not specifically assess how well students can do a certain type of writing.  For example an argument paper is very different from a narrative.  Each type of writing has unique characteristics and therefore, the same rubric cannot be used to assess them both. I wonder if we understand the writing process enough or whether we have simply glossed over the unique differences.

What type of writing rubric do you use – a general one or one specific to that type of writing?  If it general, then you probably are not assessing that particular learning goal.  You certainly are not using formative assessment.


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