I have not been in class the past couple weeks due to family commitments, therefore this blog post is going to be harder to write. The readings have been my main source of learning due to the circumstances. I particularly would like to talk about chapter 4 in our Tompkins (2012) textbook. This chapter is about writing assessments, which happens to be a struggle for me as a teacher. When I was student teaching in fifth grade, I found that the hardest part of being an ELA teacher was assessing my students writing. I had always thought having a rubric ready before I even introduced the assignment to the students would make the assessment process fool proof. I quickly learned I was wrong. I created my own rubric, which is probably the first wrong step as a new unexperienced teacher. What I thought made complete sense and was clear as day when I created the rubric proved to be blurry and arguable when I sat down to grade the papers. Not only was my misconception of creating a rubric wrong, but my overall idea of how to assess writing was narrow and skewed.
First, I had the idea that only final drafts of students’ work were to be looked at for grading. This according to Tompkins (2012) is wrong. Students work should be looked at all stages throughout the entire writing process. Conferences are not only used to help a student edit and revise a writing piece, but they should also be used to monitor a student’s progress. Observations as students are working on their pieces are helpful for at teacher as they assess the students writing. Anecdotal notes can be written down to track a students progress as well as their use of the writing strategies.
Not only should the teacher assess the student’s work, but the student themselves should also assess what they have created and their steps in the process. With this being said, the writing piece should not only be looked at for a grade, but also as an indication of the student’s writing level.
There are several reasons why assessments are used with writing pieces. Most commonly is to tag the writing with a grade to be able to explain the students’ achievement to a parent or the student themselves. This also is a way for teachers to determine if students have met the grade level standards. Assessments are also used to document the students’ growth as a writer and as a mean for guiding instruction. The current piece of writing gives the teacher a good indication of where the student is at and what to focus on next. When looking at all of the students’ writings within the class, a teacher is able to assess whether or not the instructional methods being used are effective in that assignment or in the class as a whole. These uses for assessment are much broader and more useful than what I had previously thought about, simply labeling with a grade to determine if the student met standards.
Taking this chapter into consideration, I now have a better idea of assessing students’ writing. I see that it is not done just at the end of an assignment after one short conference to revise and edit. (Although revising and editing are two different stages in the writing process.) Conferences are a helpful tool for teachers to use to get the general idea of where their students are at and to address any specific points that student may need help or reteaching with. When looking at Tompkins (2012) view of assessment, I now see it as a tool of guidance for the teacher rather than to indicate the students level of writing. I feel that anecdotal notes over time will be more helpful to me in the classroom to see a students growth rather than a line of grades in a grade book. Basic letter grades do not show the areas in which a student has grown or needs assistance in the way anecdotal notes can. I have changed my view of writing assessments greatly after reading this chapter. I hope the next time I am in the position to grade students written work I feel more confident in doing so.