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Student Writing Models
How do I use student models in my classroom?
When you need an example written by a student, check out our vast collection of free student models. Scroll through the list, or search for a mode of writing such as “explanatory” or “persuasive.”
Jump to . . .
- How Much I Know About Space Explanatory Paragraph
- My Favorite Pet Explanatory Paragraph
- Sweet Spring Explanatory Paragraph
- A Happy Day Narrative Paragraph
- My Trip to Mexico Narrative Paragraph
- Happy Easter Story Paragraph
- Leaf Person Story
- Parrots Report
- If I Were President Explanatory Paragraph
- My Dad Personal Narrative
- The Horrible Day Personal Narrative
Response to Literature
- One Great Book Book Review
- A Fable Story
- Ant Poem Poem
- The Missing Coin Story
- Winter Words Poem
- Horses Report
- Ladybugs Report
- How to Make Boiled Eggs How-To
- Plastic, Paper, or Cloth? Persuasive Paragraph
- The Funny Dance Personal Narrative
- The Sled Run Personal Narrative
- Hello, Spring! Poem
- Cheetahs Report
- Dear Ms. Nathan Email
- My Favorite Place to Go Description
- My Mother Personal Essay
- Rules Personal Essay
- Shadow Fort Description
- Adopting a Pet from the Pound Editorial
- Letter to the Editor Letter to the Editor
- Ann Personal Narrative
- Grandpa, Chaz, and Me Personal Narrative
- Indy’s Life Story Personal Narrative
- Jet Bikes Personal Narrative
- The Day I Took the Spotlight Personal Narrative
- A Story of Survival Book Review
- Chloe’s Day Story
- Did You Ever Look At . . . Poem
- Dreams Poem
- I Am Attean Poem
- Sloppy Joes Poem
- The Civil War Poem
- The Haunted House Story
- The Terror of Kansas Story
- When I Was Upside Down Poem
- Deer Don’t Need to Flee to Stay Trouble-Free! Report
- Height-Challenged German Shepherd Report
- Friendship Definition
- What Really Matters News Feature
- Cheating in America Problem-Solution
- Hang Up and Drive Editorial
- Musical Arts Editorial
- Summer: 15 Days or 2 1/2 Months? Editorial
- A Cowboy's Journal Fictionalized Journal Entry
- Giving Life Personal Narrative
- The Great Paw Paw Personal Narrative
- The Racist Warehouse Personal Narrative
- Limadastrin Poem
- The Best Little Girl in the World Book Review
- How the Stars Came to Be Story
- Linden’s Library Story
- My Backyard Poem
- The Call Poem
- I Am Latvia Research Report
- Mir Pushed the Frontier of Space Research Report
- The Aloha State Research Report
- The Incredible Egg Observation Report
- Unique Wolves Research Report
- Dear Dr. Larson Email
- A Lesson to Learn Journal
- Caught in the Net Definition
- From Bed Bound to Breaking Boards News Feature
- If Only They Knew Comparison-Contrast
- Save the Elephants Cause-Effect
- Student Entrepreneur Reaches for Dreams of the Sky News Feature
- Internet Plagiarism Problem-Solution
- Mosquito Madness Pet Peeve
- Anticipating the Dream Personal Narrative
- Huddling Together Personal Narrative
- H’s Hickory Chips Personal Narrative
- It’s a Boy! Personal Narrative
- My Greatest Instrument Personal Narrative
- Snapshots Personal Narrative
- Take Me to Casablanca Personal Narrative
- The Boy with Chris Pine Blue Eyes Personal Narrative
- The Climb Personal Narrative
- The House on Medford Avenue Personal Narrative
- Adam’s Train of Ghosts Music Review
- Diary of Gaspard Fictionalized Journal Entry
- My Interpretation of The Joy Luck Club Literary Analysis
- Mama’s Stitches Poem
- The KHS Press Play
- Rosa Parks Research Report
- The Killer Bean Research Report
- Mid-Project Report on History Paper Email
- Vegetarian Lunch Options at Bay High Email
- Discover the Fastest, Most Effective Way to Teach Students Organized Multi-Paragraph Essay Writing… Guaranteed!
Student Writing Samples and Analysis for Elementary, Middle School, and High School: Complete Collection
by Pattern Based Writing: Quick & Easy Essay | Evaluating Student Writing , How to Teach Essay Writing , Writing Assessments and Writing Standards
How do you bring objectivity to teaching writing? Authentic student writing samples from state writing assessments are an excellent tool that helps teachers bring objectivity to teaching writing. Of course, it sure helps if the writing samples are accompanied by objective analysis, scoring, and commentary. You will find all of that and more on this page!
Many teachers evaluate their students’ writing progress by examining what they can get their students to produce as an end result. They look at what they can get their students to produce in a lesson, and they place great importance on what they can get their students to produce to place on a bulletin board. Certainly, I care about those things, too. But I primarily measure my students’ writing progress by examining and monitoring their independent writing. It’s not about what I can get them to do—it’s about what they do when left to their own devices.
We have three types of independent student writing:
1. daily writing across the curriculum 2. state and district writing assessments 3. independent writing assignments
My purpose here is not to discuss independent student writing, but instead to explain why the following collection of objective, authentic student writing samples are so valuable and helpful. Usually, when we see samples of student writing (other than our own students’ writing), they are polished examples, and we have no idea of what went into creating them. How much time? How many drafts? Who guided the piece of writing? How much guiding? What forms of guidance?
In contrast, we all know exactly how these state writing assessment samples were created; we all know the exact writing situation in which these pieces of writing were created; we all know that no teacher had any influence on any of these pieces of writing once the assignment was given. This writing is what students produced when given plenty of time and left to their own devices.
An Awesome Collection of Released Student-Writing Samples with Analysis and Commentary
I have always linked to valuable collections of resources that I have come across that can help teachers teach writing and achieve success on writing assessments. Here are two of the best:
1. Released Writing Prompts for State Testing
2. State Writing Assessment Tools and Resources : This page contains links to all of these valuable resources from many state writing assessments: 1) released writing prompts, 2) scoring rubrics, 3) anchor papers, scoring commentary, student writing samples, 4) teacher guides and/or test directions, 5) and more!
Below you will find another collection of valuable resources—a collection of released student writing samples. Since creating Pattern Based Writing: Quick & Easy Essay , I’ve interacted with teachers from all over the country—and even the world. A kind teacher up in Oregon who is using Pattern Based Writing: Quick & Easy Essay sent me these links. She is thrilled that the number of her students scoring high on the Oregon State Writing Assessment has doubled since she began using the program.
This collection of released student writing samples has five great qualities:
1. It includes writing samples for grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10.
2. It includes scoring analysis for every single essay in grades 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10.
3. It includes writing samples for four important genres: 1) expository, 2) narrative: personal, 3) narrative: imaginative, and 4) persuasive (starts in grade 5).
4. It includes writing samples for five scoring levels: 1) low, 2) medium-low, 3) medium, 4) medium-high, and 5) high.
5. In total, the collection contains about 325 pages of released student writing samples and scoring analysis!
Here’s the Collection!
Please Note: I used to link to the scoring guide and rubrics, but the files seem to have been moved. Truthfully, they are not necessary at all. Furthermore, you will find links to many excellent Six-Trait rubrics here , including the original Six Traits rubric from Oregon (where it all began).
This collection scores papers using the Six Traits of Writing: 1) Ideas and Content, 2) Organization, 3) Voice, 4) Word Choice, 5) Sentence Fluency, and 6) Conventions. Since the rise of the Common Core, Oregon has used a couple of different scoring models that use different traits, including a few genre-specific traits. However, this collection of student writing samples remains one of the best available.
• Grade 3 Student Writing Samples and Scoring Analysis
• Grade 4 Student Writing Samples and Scoring Analysis
• Grade 5 Student Writing Samples and Scoring Analysis
• Grade 6 Student Writing Samples and Scoring Analysis
• Grade 7 Student Writing Samples and Scoring Analysis
• Grade 8 Student Writing Samples and Scoring Analysis
• Grade 9 There aren’t any.
• Grade 10 Student Writing Samples and Scoring Analysis
Common Core Update: 686 Pages of K-12 Common Core Student Writing Samples
Are you interested in 686 pages of K-12 Common Core student writing samples? If you are, be sure to download this awesome collection! To be honest, I was surprised when I clicked on the link and discovered this wonderful bounty.
• In Common: Effective Writing for All Students Collection of All Student Work Samples, K-12
Are You Interested in Paragraphs?
Now that you have your student writing samples, I pose this question to you: Do you want to understand how the best writers and the lowest scoring writers created their paragraphs on those writing samples? If you do, be sure to read the following two resources. The above collection of student writing samples played a role in both of these:
1. Paragraph Length: How the Best Student Writers Create Paragraphs on State Writing Assessments 2. The Ten Stages of Paragraph and Multi-Paragraph Mastery eBook
How to Use These Student Writing Samples to Teach Writing
“Habit #2: Start with the end in mind.” Stephen R. Covey – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
Primary Purpose: The primary purpose of these student writing samples is to help teachers become experts in analyzing student writing. Furthermore, these student writing samples help teachers figure out how to begin with the end in mind. Teachers must begin with the end in mind if they want their students’ writing to end up where they want it to be.
Furthermore, teachers can use these student writing samples in the classroom to teach students about creating, analyzing, and evaluating writing. Here are ten ideas to get you started:
1. Choose and print out a few essays and commentary that you want to focus on.
2. Examine the essays and commentary. What are your students doing correctly? What are your students not doing correctly? What do your students need to learn? Read the commentary and make a list of skills that you want to teach your students. Plan out how you are going to teach those skills.
3. Use a Six-Trait rubric go over a number of essays with your students. (You will find links to many different Six-Trait rubrics here .) Teach your students what scorers are looking for. What makes for a high scoring essay and what makes for a low scoring essay? What went right with the high-scoring essays? What went wrong with the low-scoring essays?
4. Create or find a few student-friendly rubrics . Have students score at least a few essays using these rubrics. Make sure your students understand the rubrics, and if you have the time, you may want to have your students help create a simple rubric.
5. Compare and contrast the genres. This activity is a great way to show students different types of writing and different styles. Play the game, “Name the Genre.” What are the qualities and characteristics of the writing genre that you see in the sample essays? How can you tell it is a particular type of writing? (Note: “Name the Genre” is also an effective strategy to use with writing prompts, and in particular, with released writing prompts .)
6. Have students compare and contrast essays that have different scores. Have students compare and contrast essays with the same scores but from different grades levels.
7. Use the low scores to show your students how good their writing is. Use the high scores to show your students where they need to improve.
8. Have students edit or build upon one of the sample essays. Take one of the low scoring essays and have your students transform it into a high scoring essay. You can do this with each genre of writing. Help your students see the similarities and the differences across different types of writing.
9. Demonstrate how neatness matters. Some of the sample essays are messy. Even a few high scoring ones are messy. Discuss how difficult it can be for scorers to fairly assess messy writing. Note: Students will often see messy writing on a decent paper and think that the paper is a low scoring paper. Explain that while rubrics do help prevent this rush to judgment, they do not eliminate it. This exercise also helps illustrate how important rubrics are, and how students must, in one sense, write for the rubric.
10. Show your students how all of the important writing skills that you have been teaching them are found in the high-scoring papers and are missing from the low-scoring papers.
Pattern Based Writing: Quick & Easy Essay
- Evaluating Student Writing (5)
- Genres (12)
- Grammar / Spelling Ideas & Tips (16)
- How to Teach Essay Writing (10)
- How to Teach Paragraph and Multi-Paragraph Writing (11)
- How to Teach Writing (9)
- Ideas for Parents (1)
- Journals & Quick Writes (4)
- Narrative Writing (8)
- Prewriting, Oranization, and Structure (5)
- Reading Instruction (3)
- Remedial Writing Instruction (4)
- Research on Teaching Writing (13)
- Rubrics and Checklists (6)
- Seasonal and Holiday Writing Ideas (8)
- Six Traits of Writing (3)
- Teaching Children Poetry (4)
- Teaching Elementary Writing (7)
- Teaching Middle School Writing (6)
- Teaching Report Writing (2)
- Teaching Sentences (1)
- Teaching Writing Across the Curriculum (6)
- Tips for Teaching Writing (19)
- Understanding Writing and Types of Writing (2)
- Vocabulary Development and Word Lists (16)
- Writer's Workshop (3)
- Writing Assessments and Writing Standards (17)
- Writing Prompts and Assignments (11)
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Developing Main Ideas- Grade 4 Sample
(Click image to download sample and feedback) Informational/Opinion Writing Grade 4 Sample Dogs Try This Exercise in Your Classroom Use this sample to identify the lack of broad yet distinct …
Opinion Writing- Grade 4 - WOW! Autumn
(Click image to download sample and feedback) Opinion Writing Grade 4 Sample WOW! Is Autumn Already Here? Feedback for Improvement Topic: Autumn Main Reason 1: Things to smell Main Reason …
Opinion Writing- Grade 4 - Palo Pinto
(Click image to download sample and feedback) STAAR Released Opinion Writing Grade 4 Sample Palo Pinto Feedback for Improvement Topic: Palo Pinto Elementary Main Reason 1: Students Main Reason 2: …
Opinion Writing- Grade 5 - Autumn
(Click image to download sample and feedback) Informational/Opinion Writing Grade 5 Sample Autumn Feedback for Improvement Topic: Autumn - my favorite season Main Reason#1: changes in nature Main Reason #2: …
Narrative Writing Sample- Grade 6
(Click image to download sample and feedback) Narrative Writing Grade 6 Sample Splash! Feedback for Improvement What worked: There is a sense of story with a beginning, middle and end …
Personal Experience Narrative Sample- Grade 5
(Click image to download sample and feedback) Personal Experience Narrative Grade 5 Sample Jason Summarizing Framework This is a story about my friend Jason and me. The experience was going …
Personal Experience Narrative Sample- Grade 4- Snowed
(Click image to download sample and feedback) Personal Experience Narrative Grade 4 Sample Snowed Summarizing Framework This is a story about Danny and me. The experience was playing in the …
Personal Experience Narrative Sample- Grade 4
(Click image to download sample and feedback) Personal Experience Narrative Grade 4 Sample Summarizing Framework This is a story about me. The experience was competing in a basketball game against …
Narrative Extension Task Sample- Grade 4
(Click image to download sample and feedback) This released student sample, from the https://www.doe.mass.edu/, is analyzed for specific skills taught using the Empowering Writers approach. The sample features the skills …
Narrative Writing Sample- Character Problem Solution- Grade 3-
(Click image to download sample and feedback) Narrative Writing- Character/Problem/Solution Grade 3 Sample The Growling Snow Monster Summarizing Framework: This story is about me. The problem was about being chased …
Narrative Writing Sample- Grade 2
(Click image to download sample and feedback) Narrative Writing- Character/Problem/Solution Grade 2 Sample Red Wolves Task: Imagine that you were camping and you hear a noise. You go to investigate …
Narrative Writing Sample- Grade 4- Frogs in the Pool
(Click image to download sample and feedback) Narrative Writing Grade 4 Sample Frogs in the Pool Feedback for Improvement What worked: This is a story with a beginning, middle and …
Revise This Beginning- Grade 4 - Boogie Boarding
(Click image to download sample and feedback) Narrative Writing- Revise this Beginning Grade 4 Sample Boogie Boarding Feedback for Improvement Writing is a process, not a destination! It’s very easy …
Informational Writing- Grade 5 - Beach
(Click image to download sample and feedback) Informational/Opinion Writing Grade 5 Sample The Beach Feedback for Improvement Topic: the beach Main Idea #1: shells Main Idea #2: relaxation Main Idea …
Response to Text Sample- Grade 5
Informational Writing- Grade 4 - Japanese New Year
(Click image to download sample and feedback) Informational/Opinion Writing Grade 4 Sample Japanese New Year's Feedback for Improvement Topic: Japanese New Year Main Idea #1: Food Main Idea #2: Family …
Developing Main Ideas- Grade 4
(Click image to download sample and feedback) Developing Main Ideas Grade 4 Sample Teaching informational writing is difficult to do with a student who has not been taught specific writing …
Opinion Writing- Grade 4 - Cats
(Click image to download sample and feedback) Grade 4 Opinion Writing Cats Feedback for Improvement Topic: Cats Main Idea #1: Well Behaved Main Idea #2: Easy to care for What …
Response to Text Sample- Grade 4 - Jean-Francois
Informational Writing - Grade 3 - Travel
(Click image to download sample and feedback) Grade 3 Informational Writing What Tools Do You Need When You Travel Feedback for Improvement Topic: Tools for Travel Main Idea #1: GPS …
Informational Writing - Grade 3 - Pool
(Click image to download sample and feedback) Grade 3 Informational Writing Pool Feedback for Improvement Topic: Pool Fun Main Idea #1: Swimming Main Idea #2: Races Main Idea #3: Marco …
Informational Process Piece- Grade 3 - Hamster
(Click image to download sample and feedback) Grade 3 Informational - Process Writing Project Hamsters Feedback for Improvement Topic: Hamsters Main Idea #1: What do they look like? Main Idea …
Constructed Response Sample- Grade 3- Humpback Whale
Response to Text Sample- Grade 3
Opinion Writing - Student Sample List
Are you looking to provide specific feedback to your students in order to improve their writing? These samples are annotated for the specific skills students applied effectively in their writing …
Narrative Writing - Student Samples by Grade Level
Informational/Expository Writing - Student Samples by Grade Level
MCAS Writing - Student Samples by Grade Level
These released item samples from the https://www.doe.mass.edu/ are analyzed for specific skills taught using the Empowering Writers approach. Each sample features the skills that the students successfully applied and suggestions …
Opinion Writing – Sample for Annotation & Analysis
With the advent of the CCSS, everyone is concerned about teaching Opinion Writing in response to text, to issues, situations, likes and dislikes. The underlying organizational structure of a well-crafted …
Autumn – Opinion Writing Sample
What is your favorite season and why? Write a piece describing and explaining your favorite season. This was a prompt that until recently I would have used for my students …
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- Responding to Student Writing
PRINCIPLES OF RESPONDING TO STUDENT WRITING
Your comments on student writing should clearly reflect the hierarchy of your concerns about the paper. Major issues should be treated more prominently and at greater length; minor issues should be treated briefly or not at all. If you comment extensively on grammatical or mechanical issues, you should expect students to infer that such issues are among your main concerns with the paper. It is after all not unreasonable for students to assume that the amount of ink you spill on an issue bears some relationship to the issue’s importance.
It is often more helpful to comment explicitly, substantively, and in detail about two or three important matters than it is to comment superficially about many issues. Many veteran readers find the experience of responding to student writing to be one of constantly deciding not to comment on less important issues. Such restraint allows you to focus your energies on just a few important points and also tends to yield a cleaner and more easily intelligible message for students.
Some suggestions for writing comments follow.
READING THE PAPER
You may want to skim through four or five papers to get a sense of the pile before reading and grading any single paper. Many instructors read each paper once through to grasp the overall argument before making any marks. Whether skimming on a first time through or reading carefully, you might keep the following categories in mind, which will help you assess the paper’s strengths and weaknesses:
- Thesis: Is there one main argument in the paper? Does it fulfill the assignment? Is the thesis clearly stated near the beginning of the paper? Is it interesting, complex? Is it argued throughout?
- Structure: Is the paper clearly organized? Is it easy to understand the main point of each paragraph? Does the order of the overall argument make sense, and is it easy to follow?
- Evidence and Analysis: Does the paper offer supporting evidence for each of its points?Does the evidence suggest the writer’s knowledge of the subject matter? Has the paper overlooked any obvious or important pieces of evidence? Is there enough analysis of evidence? Is the evidence properly attributed, and is the bibliographical information correct?
- Sources: If appropriate or required, are sources used besides the main text(s) under consideration? Are they introduced in an understandable way? Is their purpose in the argument clear? Do they do more than affirm the writer’s viewpoint or represent a “straw person” for knocking down? Are responsible inferences drawn from them? Are they properly attributed, and is the bibliographical information correct?
- Style: Is the style appropriate for its audience? Is the paper concise and to the point? Are sentences clear and grammatically correct? Are there spelling or proofreading errors?
WRITING A FINAL COMMENT
Y our final comment is your chance not only to critique the paper at hand but also to communicate your expectations about writing and to teach students how to write more effective papers in the future.
The following simple structure will help you present your comments in an organized way:
- Reflect back the paper’s main point. By reflecting back your understanding of the argument, you let the student see that you took the paper seriously. A restatement in your own words will also help you ground your comment. If the paper lacks a thesis, restate the subject area.
- Discuss the essay’s strengths. Even very good writers need to know what they’re doing well so that they can do it again in the future. Remember to give specific examples.
- Discuss the paper’s weaknesses, focusing on large problems first. You don’t have to comment on every little thing that went wrong in a paper. Instead, choose two or three of the most important areas in which the student needs to improve, and present these in order of descending importance. You may find it useful to key these weaknesses to such essay elements as Thesis, Structure, Evidence, and Style. Give specific examples to show the student what you’re seeing. If possible, suggest practical solutions so that the student writer can correct the problems in the next paper.
- Type your final comments if possible. If you handwrite them, write in a straight line (not on an angle or up the side of a page), and avoid writing on the reverse side; instead, append extra sheets as needed. The more readable your comments are, the more seriously your students are likely to take them.
While carefully reading a paper, you’ll want to make comments in the margins. These comments have two main purposes: to show students that you attentively read the paper and to help students understand the connection between the paper and your final comments. If you tell a student in the final comment that he or she needs more analysis, for example, the student should be able to locate one or more specific sites in the text that you think are lacking.
SOME PRINCIPLES FOR MAKING MARGINAL COMMENTS
- Make some positive comments. “Good point” and “great move here” mean a lot to students, as do fuller indications of your engagement with their writing. Students need to know what works in their writing if they’re to repeat successful strategies and make them a permanent part of their repertoire as writers. They’re also more likely to work hard to improve when given some positive feedback.
- Comment primarily on patterns—representative strengths and weaknesses. Noting patterns (and marking these only once or twice) helps instructors strike a balance between making students wonder whether anyone actually read their essay and overwhelming them with ink. The “pattern” principle applies to grammar and other sentence-level problems, too.
- Write in complete, detailed sentences. Cryptic comments—e.g., “weak thesis,” “more analysis needed,” and “evidence?”—will be incompletely understood by most students, who will wonder, What makes the thesis weak? What does my teacher mean by “analysis”? What about my evidence? Symbols and abbreviations—e.g., “awk” and “?”—are likewise confusing. The more specific and concrete your comments, the more helpful they’ll be to student writers.
- Ask questions. Asking questions in the margins promotes a useful analytical technique while helping students anticipate future readers’ queries.
- Use a respectful tone. Even in the face of fatigue and frustration, it’s important to address students respectfully, as the junior colleagues they are.
- Write legibly (in any ink but red). If students have to struggle to decipher a comment, they probably won’t bother. Red ink will make them feel as if their essay is being corrected rather than responded to.
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Assessment and Evaluation
Simple Ways to Assess the Writing Skills of Students with Learning Disabilities
Student writing can be evaluated on five product factors: fluency, content, conventions, syntax, and vocabulary. Writing samples also should be assessed across a variety of purposes for writing to give a complete picture of a student’s writing performance across different text structures and genres. These simple classroom help in identifying strengths and weaknesses, planning instruction, evaluating instructional activities, giving feedback, monitoring performance, and reporting progress.
On this page:
Process, product, and purpose, taking into account the purpose, simple ways to assess the writing skills of students with learning disabilities.
A teacher’s first responsibility is to provide opportunities for writing and encouragement for students who attempt to write. A teacher’s second responsibility is to promote students’ success in writing. The teacher does this by carefully monitoring students’ writing to assess strengths and weaknesses, teaching specific skills and strategies in response to student needs, and giving careful feedback that will reinforce newly learned skills and correct recurring problems. These responsibilities reveal, upon inspection, that assessment is clearly an integral part of good instruction. In their review of the existing research on effective instruction Christenson, Ysseldyke, and Thurlow (1989) found that, in addition to other factors, the following conditions were positively correlated to pupil achievement:
- The degree to which there is an appropriate instructional match between student characteristics and task characteristics (in other words, teachers must assess the student’s prior knowledge and current level of skills in order to match them to a task that is relevant and appropriate to their aptitudes);
- The degree to which the teacher actively monitors students’ understanding and progress; and
- The degree to which student performance is evaluated frequently and appropriately (congruent with what is taught).
Assessment, therefore, is an essential component of effective instruction. Airasian (1996) identified three types of classroom assessments. The first he called “sizing-up” assessments, usually done during the first week of school to provide the teacher with quick information about the students when beginning their instruction. The second type, instructional assessments, are used for the daily tasks of planning instruction, giving feedback, and monitoring student progress. The third type he referred to as official assessments, which are the periodic formal functions of assessment for grouping, grading, and reporting. In other words, teachers use assessment for identifying strengths and weaknesses, planning instruction to fit diagnosed needs, evaluating instructional activities, giving feedback, monitoring performance, and reporting progress. Simple curriculum-based methods for assessing written expression can meet all these purposes.
Curriculum-based assessment must start with an inspection of the curriculum. Many writing curricula are based on a conceptual model that takes into account process, product, and purpose. This conceptual model, therefore, forms the framework for the simple assessment techniques that follow.
Simple ways to assess the process
The diagnostic uses of assessment (determining the reasons for writing problems and the student’s instructional needs) are best met by looking at the process of writing, i.e., the steps students go through and strategies they use as they work at writing. How much planning does the student do before he or she writes? Does she have a strategy for organizing ideas? What seem to be the obstacles to getting thoughts down on paper? How does the student attempt to spell words she does not know? Does the student reread what she has written? Does the student talk about or share her work with others as she is writing it? What kind of changes does the student make to her first draft?
In order to make instructionally relevant observations, the observer must work from a conceptual model of what the writing process should be. Educators have reached little consensus regarding the number of steps in the writing process. Writing experts have proposed as few as two (Elbow, 1981) and as many as nine (Frank, 1979). Englert, Raphael, Anderson, Anthony, and Stevens (1991) provided a model of a five-step writing process using the acronym POWER: Plan, Organize, Write, Edit, and Revise. Each step has its own substeps and strategies that become more sophisticated as the students become more mature as writers, accommodating their style to specific text structures and purposes of writing. Assessment of the writing process can be done through observation of students as they go through the steps of writing.
Having students assess their own writing process is also important for two reasons. First, self-assessment allows students an opportunity to observe and reflect on their own approach, drawing attention to important steps that may be overlooked. Second, self-assessment following a conceptual model like POWER is a means of internalizing an explicit strategy, allowing opportunities for the student to mentally rehearse the strategy steps. Figure 1 is a format for both self-observation and teacher observation of the writing process following the POWER strategy. Similar self-assessments or observation checklists could be constructed for other conceptual models of the writing process.
Simple ways to assess the product
An effective writing process should lead to a successful product. A writing product fulfills its communicative intent if it is of appropriate length, is logical and coherent, and has a readable format. It is a pleasure to read if it is composed of well-constructed sentences and a rich variety of words that clearly convey the author’s meaning. When various conceptual models of writing are compared side by side (Isaacson, 1984) five product variables seem to emerge: fluency , content, conventions, syntax , and vocabulary . Too often teachers focus their attention primarily on surface features of a student’s composition related to the mechanical aspects of writing, or conventions. A balanced assessment should look at all five aspects of a student’s writing. The following are simple methods for assessing each product variable. In some instances quantifiable measures are used; in others, qualitative assessments seem more appropriate.
The first writing skill a teacher might assess with a beginning writer is fluency: being able to translate one’s thoughts into written words. As concepts of print and fine motor skills develop, the student should become more proficient at writing down words and sentences into compositions of gradually increasing length. The developmental route of very young writers involves trying to understand what written language is about as they look at books, become aware of environmental print , and put pencil to paper (Clay, 1982). Then children try to relate their experiences in writing using invented spelling . As they begin to construct little stories they explore spelling patterns and develop new language patterns. Clay (1979, 1993) recommends a simple rating scale for emerging writing skills that focuses on language level (from only letters to sentences and paragraphs), message quality, and directional principles (Figure 2).
A simple curriculum-based measure of fluency is total number of words written during a short writing assignment. When fluency is the focus, misspellings, poor word choice, and faulty punctuation are not considered. Attention is only directed to the student’s facility in translating thoughts into words. A baseline of at least three writing samples should be collected and the total number of words counted for each. For the purpose of evaluation, this total can be compared with those of proficient writers of the same age or grade level. However, total words may be used best in monitoring the student’s progress, comparing performance with his or her own previous fluency.
A resulting IEP objective might be written like this: After a group prewriting discussion with the teacher, Daniel will write original narrative compositions of  words or more. A rough guideline for setting the criterion can be established from research reported by Deno, Mirkin, and Wesson (1984) and Parker and Tindal (1989):
- If the total number of words is less than 20, aim for doubling it by the end of the school year.
- If the number of words is between 25 and 30, aim for a 50% increase.
- If the number of words is between 35 and 45, aim for a 25% increase.
- If the number of words is greater than 50, choose another objective.
Content is the second factor to consider in the writing product. Content features include the composition’s organization, cohesion, accuracy (in expository writing), and originality (in creative writing). General questions the classroom teacher can ask regarding a composition’s organization include:
- Is there a good beginning sentence?
- Is there a clear ending?
- Is there a logical sequence of subtopics or events?
- Does the writer stick to the topic?
- Is it clear what words like it, that, and they refer to?
- Does the writer use key words that cue the reader to the direction of the discourse (First… , Then… , Therefore… , On the other hand… )?
- Originality is assessed through questions like:
- Did the writer attempt humor?
- Did the writer present a unique point of view?
Analytical scales are the best way to lend some objectivity to evaluation of content. One can choose from a general rating scale, appropriate to almost any writing assignment, or one tailored to a specific genre or text structure . Spandel and Culham (1993) developed an analytical trait scoring guide for six aspects of writing, three of which address content: Ideas and content, organization, and voice. (Voice refers to the author’s own unique personality, style, and honesty reflected in the writing.) Each of these traits is scored on a five-point scale. For example, organization is scored using the following guidelines:
- 5 The organization enhances and showcases the central idea or storyline. The order, structure or presentation of information is compelling and moves the reader through the text.
- 3 The organizational structure is strong enough to move the reader through the text without undue confusion
- 1 The writing lacks a clear sense of direction. Ideas, details or events seem strung together in a loose or random fashion-or else there is no identifiable internal structure. (Spandel & Culham, 1993)
To promote agreement between raters, each of the guidelines above is further defined by specific criteria (or rubrics). A rating of 3, for example, requires these attributes:
- The paper has a recognizable introduction and conclusion. The introduction may not create a strong sense of anticipation; the conclusion may not tie up all loose ends. Sequencing is usually logical, but may sometimes be so predictable that the structure takes attention away from the content.
- Pacing is fairly well controlled, though the writer sometimes spurts ahead too quickly or spends too much time on details that do not matter.
- Transitions often work well; at other times, connections between ideas are fuzzy.
- The organization sometimes supports the main point or storyline; at other times, the reader feels an urge to slip in a transition or move things around. (Spandel & Culham, 1993)
A composition that is somewhat better organized than described by the guidelines for 3 but does not quite fit the descriptors for 5 would receive a rating of 4. Similarly, a rating of 2 falls between the descriptors for 1 and 3.
Analytical scoring guidelines such as these are used in many state writing assessments. There are two limitations to scales such as these. First, teachers must spend many hours learning the rubrics and discussing student compositions in order to establish any degree of integrater reliability. Second, these scales may not be sensitive enough to measure growth in students with emerging literacy skills who are unable to achieve a rating above 1 or-at the most-2.
For many students, writing instruction begins with smaller units of discourse, such as a paragraph. Welch and Link (1992) recommended an informal paragraph assessment that focuses on each of a paragraph’s three parts: topic sentence, supporting sentences, and clincher sentence (Figure 3). Each part can receive a point for its existence, its form (grammatical correctness), and its function (relevance to the topic). Both topic sentence and clincher sentence can earn only one point for each of the three criteria, but up to three supporting sentences can be scored for existence, form, and function. This scale could be used to evaluate almost any kind of paragraph.
Writing instruction for students with special needs also may focus on specific text structures. An example of a structure-specific scale is one that Isaacson (1995) devised for evaluating factual paragraphs written by middle school students (Figure 4). Isaacson’s scale reflects the conceptual definition of fact paragraphs taught to the students: (a) A fact paragraph has more than one sentence; (b) The first sentence tells the topic; (c) All other sentences are about the topic; (d) Sentences tell facts, not opinions; and (e) The most important information is given first. Judgments of factual accuracy and fact vs. opinion make the scale specific to factual paragraphs.
Harris and Graham (1992) provided another example of a structure-explicit measure for assessing the inclusion and quality of eight story elements in stories written by students with learning disabilities: introduction of the main character, description of the locale, the time in which the story takes place, a precipitating event (or starter event), the goal formulated by the character in response to the starter event, action(s) carried out in an attempt to achieve the goal, the ending result, and the final reaction of the main character to the outcome. Each story element receives a numerical score for its inclusion and quality of development. The validity of the scale was demonstrated by its correlation with Thematic Maturity scores on the Test of Written Language and holistic ratings of story quality (Graham & Harris, 1986).
A resulting IEP objective for content might read: Using a story map, John will plan, write, and revise a story which includes a description of the character, setting, problem or goal, two or more events, and conclusion. (A story map is a planning sheet that prompts students to think about and write down their ideas concerning the character, setting, and other components of a good story before they write.)
In order to fulfill the communicative function of writing, the product must be readable. Writers are expected to follow the standard conventions of written English: correct spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and grammar and legible handwriting. Consequently, even if the message is communicated, readers tend to be negatively predisposed to compositions that are not presentable in their form or appearance. Teachers traditionally have been more strongly influenced by length of paper, spelling, word usage, and appearance than by appropriateness of content or organization (Charney, 1984; Moran, 1982).
Counting correct word sequences is one quantitative method of measuring and monitoring students’ use of conventions. Correct word sequences (CWS) are two adjacent, correctly spelled words that are grammatically acceptable within the context of the phrase (Videen, Deno, & Marston, 1982). Capitalization and punctuation also can be considered within the sequence. To calculate the proportion of CWS:
- Place a caret (^) over every correct sequence between the two words that form the sequence.
- Place a large dot between every incorrect sequence. Place dots before and after misspelled words. Example: o my ^ dog o chasd o the ^ ball^.
- The first sequence is not comprised of two words but marks how the sentence was begun. (Sentence beginning to first word my is marked as an incorrect sequence because the M is not capitalized.) The last sequence is the last word to period, question mark, or other appropriate ending punctuation.
- To control for length of composition either (a) time the writing sample for 3 minutes (the student may continue writing after a mark is made indicating the last word written in the 3-minute period) and/or (b) divide the number of CWS by the total number of sequences (correct and incorrect), which gives the proportion of CWS.
Proportion of correct word sequences, however, does not in itself pinpoint specific concerns about the student’s spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar, or handwriting. The diagnostic function of assessment will only be met if the teacher also notes the student’s strengths and weaknesses as in Figure 5.
Like the other assessments discussed in this article, these methods can be useful for instructional planning. A resulting IEP objective addressing conventions, for example, might read: Using a 4-step editing strategy, Kevin will reread his composition checking for correct capitals, punctuation, spelling, and overall appearance, writing a final draft with 2 or less mechanical errors.
As discussed previously, a child’s early attempts at writing move from writing single words to writing word groups and sentences (Clay, 1993). Beginning writers often produce sentences that follow a repeated subject-verb (S-V) or subject-verb-object (S-V-O) pattern. The composition in Figure 5 was written by a ten-year-old female deaf student. The beginning of the composition reveals this typical repetitious pattern to a certain degree in its first few sentences: “I go… I Ride my Horse… [I] get my Cow… I Leave My cow…” A more mature writer will vary the sentence pattern and combine short S-V and S-V-O sentences into longer, more complex sentences.
Powers and Wilgus (1983) examined three parameters of syntactic maturity: (a) variations in the use of sentence patterns, (b) first expansions (six basic sentence patterns formed by the addition of adverbial phrases, infinitives, and object complements, and the formation of simple compound sentences), and (c) transformations that result in relative and subordinate clauses. Adapting Power and Wilgus’s analysis of patterns suggests a simple schema for evaluating the syntactic maturity of a student’s writing:
Examples: His old shirt. Nina and Fred too.
Example: I like my horse. I like my dog. I like my kitty. I like to feed my kitty.
Examples: I have a new toy. (S-V-O) It is big. (S-Vbe -Adj) It came in the mail. (S-V-PP)
Examples: Our baby sitter sleeps all the time. To go faster, we push it. I ate the cookie and my brother ate the candy bar.
Examples: The man wants to live where there is no pollution. Since John was late, we had to start without him.
Seldom does a student write sentences at only one level of syntactic maturity. One determines a syntactic level by analyzing all the sentences in the sample and summarizing them according to the type most often used. Occasionally one might characterize a student’s syntactic level as being a transitional Level 2/Level 3 or Level 3/Level 4.
A resulting IEP objective for syntax might read: Daniel will plan, write, and revise a descriptive paragraph using mature sentences, at least half containing embedded clauses or adverbial phrases.
The words used in a student’s composition can be evaluated according to the uniqueness or maturity of the words used in the composition. Both quantitative and qualitative methods can be used to evaluate vocabulary. Quantitative methods include calculating the use of unrepeated words in relation to the total number of words, such as Morris and Crump’s (1982) corrected type-token ratio. A simpler classroom-based method of looking at vocabulary is to simply make note of words used repetitiously (over-used words) as well as new and mature words the student uses.
Example: Over-Used Words: New Mature Words
A resulting IEP objective for vocabulary might read: Diana will revise her expository compositions, substituting at least five over-used words (e.g., is) for more interesting action words.
Being skilled is not just knowing how to perform some action but also knowing when to perform it and adapt it to varied circumstances (Resnick & Klopfer, 1989, p. 4). Being a skilled writer requires knowing how to employ the writing process across a range of writing tasks and adapt the process to the specific purpose for writing.
Instruction often begins with story structures because they represent the genre most familiar to children. Children also use and depend upon narrative as their principal mode of thinking (Moffett, 1983). However, several educators (Hennings, 1982; Sinatra, 1991; Stotsky, 1984) have called for more emphasis on descriptive and expository text structures which relate more closely to real life writing tasks.
Different purposes for writing call for different text structures. Writing a story calls for a narrative text structure that includes a character, setting, problem, etc. Writing about one’s beliefs calls for a persuasive text structure that includes discussion of the problem, statement of belief, two or three reasons for the belief, facts and examples that support the reasons, etc.
Assessment of writing skills, therefore, should take into account a variety of purposes and text structures. Purposes and genres to consider include: personal narrative (my trip to the state fair), story narrative, descriptive, explanation of a process (how to give your dog a bath), factual report, letter, compare-contrast (compare the Allegheny Mountains with the Rocky Mountains), and persuasive.
Simple curriculum-based assessments can be used to assess the writing process and products of students with learning disabilities, as well as take into account purpose. The assessments recommended in this article also adequately fulfill the purposes of assessment as discussed at the beginning of the article: identifying strengths and weaknesses, planning instruction to fit diagnosed needs, evaluating instructional activities, giving feedback, monitoring performance, and reporting progress. A teacher might use these methods at the beginning of the year to do a quick sizing-up of student instructional needs. The process checklist in Figure 1 gives the teacher important diagnostic information about the strategies a student does or does not use when writing.
A quick assessment of product variables from the first two or three writing assignments also gives the teacher important diagnostic information about skill strengths and weaknesses. The teacher then should use the initial assessment to identify instructional targets. Some students, for example, may do pretty well at planning their composition, but do little in the way of effective editing . Other students may have creative ideas, but need considerable work on conventions. Some students may do pretty well with writing stories, but need to learn how to write factual paragraphs.
All classroom-based assessment should involve the student. Self-assessment helps students take ownership for their own writing and helps them internalize the strategies they are learning. The teacher’s feedback should be given judiciously: generous in the encouragement of ideas and improved skills, but cautious in correction. Corrective feedback should only focus on those few skill targets that have been addressed in instruction.
Simple classroom-based methods also can be used to monitor student performance and report progress. Figure 6 is an assessment summary sheet that could be used to give a profile of a student’s skills across a variety of writing purposes and genres. In an assessment portfolio the summary sheet would be accompanied by representative samples of a student’s writing with both the student’s and teacher’s evaluations. After an initial assessment of student strengths and weakness across fluency , content, conventions, syntax , and vocabulary , the teacher would not necessarily need to monitor all the product factors, just those that focus on the student’s greatest challenges and priority instructional objectives.
In conclusion, on-going assessment of writing is integral to effective teaching of writing. A teacher cannot make an appropriate instructional match between a student’s skills and appropriate tasks without assessment. A teacher cannot ensure a student’s success and make necessary adjustments in instruction without engaging in frequent assessment. Careful, thorough assessment of a student’s writing requires that the teacher have a sound conceptual model of written expression taking into account process, product, and purpose.
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Airasian, P. W. (1996). Assessment in the classroom. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Charney, D. (1984). The validity of using holistic scoring to evaluate writing: A critical overview. Research in the Teaching of English, 18, 65-81.
Christenson, S. L., Ysseldyke, J. E., & Thurlow, M. L. (1989). Critical instructional factors for students with mild handicaps: An integrative review. Remedial and Special Education, 10, 21-31.
Clay, M. M. (1979). The early detection of reading difficulties: A diagnostic survey with recovery procedures (2nd ed.). Auckland New Zealand: Heinemann.
Clay, M. M. (1982). Learning and teaching writing: A developmental perspective. Language Arts, 59, 65-70.
Clay, M. M. (1993). An observation survey of early literacy achievement. Auckland New Zealand: Heinemann.
Deno, S., Mirkin, P. K., & Wesson, C. (1984). How to write effective data-based IEPs. Teaching Exceptional Children, 16, 99-104.
Elbow, P. (1981). Writing with power: Techniques for mastering the writing process. New York: Oxford University Press.
Englert, C. S., Raphael, T. E., Anderson, L. M., Anthony, H. M., & Stevens, D. D. (1991). Making strategies and self-talk visible: Writing instruction in regular and special education classrooms. American Educational Research Journal, 23, 337-372.
Frank, M. (1979). If you’re trying to teach kids how to write, you’ve gotta have this book! Nashville, TN: Incentive Publications.
Graham, S., & Harris, K. (April, 1986). Improving learning disabled students’ compositions via story grammar training: A component analysis of self-control strategy training. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco.
Harris, K. R., & Graham, S. (1992). Helping young writers master the craft: Strategy instruction & self-regulation in the writing process. Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books.
Hennings, D. G. (1982). A writing approach to reading comprehension - schema theory in action. Language Arts, 59, 8-17.
Isaacson, S. (1984). Evaluating written expression: Issues of reliability, validity, and instructional utility. Diagnostique, 9, 96-116.
Isaacson, S. (February, 1995). A comparison of alternative procedures for evaluating written expression. Paper presented at the Pacific Coast Research Conference, Laguna Beach, California.
Moffett, J. (1983). Teaching the universe of discourse. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
Moran, M. R. (1982). Analytical evaluation of formal written language skills as a diagnostic procedure. Diagnostique, 8 17-31.
Morris, N. T., & Crump, D. T. (1982). Syntactic and vocabulary development in the written language of learning-disabled and non-learning-disabled students at four age levels. Learning Disability Quarterly, 5, 163-172.
Parker, R., & Tindal. G. (1989). Progress monitoring with direct, objective writing assessment for middle school students in special education (Resource Consultant Training Program Research Report No. 1). Eugene, OR. University of Oregon, Special Education Area.
Powers, A. R., & Wilgus, S. (1983). Linguistic complexity in the written language of hearing-impaired children. Volta Review, 85, 201-210.
Resnick, L. B., & Klopfer, L. E. (1989). Toward the thinking curriculum: An overview. In L. B. Resnick & L. E. Klopfer (Eds.), Toward the thinking curriculum: Current cognitive research (1989 Yearbook of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Sinatra, R. (1991). Integrating whole language with the learning of text structure. Journal of Reading, 34, 424-433.
Spandel, V., & Culham, R. (1993). Analytical trait scoring guide. Portland, OR: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory.
Stotsky, S. (1984). Commentary: A proposal for improving high school students’ ability to read and write expository prose. Journal of Reading, 28, 4-7.
Videen, J., Deno, S., & Marston, D. (1982). Correct word sequences: A valid indicator of proficiency in written expression (Research Report No. 84). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Institute for Research in Learning Disabilities.
Welch, M., & Link, D. P. (1992). Informal assessment of paragraph composition. Intervention in School and Clinic, 27(3), 145-149.
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Stephen L. Isaacson Portland State University This article is adapted for LD OnLine from a similar article by Isaacson published in The Volta Review, 1996, Vol. 98, No. 1, pp. 183-199.
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One of the most rewarding parts of teaching is seeing your students succeed as they learn new skills, develop their independence and overcome pebbles, rocks and boulders. It’s important to celebrate these moments with your students.
Celebrating big and small successes builds confidence, boosts motivation and reinforces the positive habits and actions your students are developing.
We recently launched new editions of the Seven Steps Writing Manuals which feature a range of annotated student writing samples. We couldn’t wait to showcase some of those samples and celebrate the amazing work of these Seven Steps students.
Each student received a certificate and a laminated copy of their writing and can now call themselves published authors! That’s an achievement worth celebrating – congratulations, these students and their teachers should be so proud.
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Student writing samples
These writing samples were a joy to read and we’re honoured to include them in our manuals. Here are 6 of the newest young authors and a sample of their wonderful writing.
This writing sample has been published in the new Informative Writing Manual .
Lying back in the pitch black planetarium I felt calm. There were some quiet voices behind me but then the stars lit up above us and we saw the constellations. The seats were so comfy that my mum fell asleep!
Rauridh, Year 2, Black Rock Primary School
Step 2: Sizzling Starts (Start with humour)
These writing samples have been published in the new Narrative Writing Manual .
‘Look, a bicycle! It is a weird one, it has got boosters on the back,’ said Laura. Laura and her friend Katie walked over to the bicycle to have a better look at it. But as they got nearer to the bicycle it started pedalling away!
‘That was strange,’ said Katie. ‘It had no-one on it!’
Amelia, Year 3, Kalamunda Christian School
Step 2: Sizzling Starts (Start with dialogue)
Amelia’s reaction to finding out she’s now a published author !
Thunder growled. The wind blew hard. The rain fell. A mysterious ladder twisted up towards the clouds. I wondered where the ladder went.
Should I go up it or should I stay where I was, nervous and shaking in the cold?
Jack, Year 3, Honeywood Primary School
Step 3: Tightening Tension
‘Imogen,’ my Mum screamed. I woke up with a sigh, when I was wide awake I was terified and I screamed because I was flying in the middle of the air!
After I had calmed down I settled down for breakfast and told Mum ‘Mum I can fly now would it be alright if I go to school today?’ and Mum replied ‘yes’ so I set off for school by myself.
Imogen, Year 2, Churchlands Primary School
Step 4: Dynamic Dialogue
These writing samples have been published in the new Persuasive Writing Manual .
Have you ever gotten lost in a book? Because I definitely have. An example of when I got lost in a book, was when I was reading one of my favourite books, ‘The Land of Stories’.
I got lost in this book because it is funny and happy, but also it’s a bit dark. I also love it because it’s a bit strange and I love that. Now whenever I’m reading a book in bed, I never want to stop! I never feel that way about TV!
Firstly, I think books are better than TV because when I am reading a book, I get so sucked in that I don’t worry about any of my problems. I do enjoy TV but I don’t get sucked into it like I do with books. When I read I also enjoy the peace and quiet. When it is quiet, I can connect my feelings to the book.
Anya, Year 3, Sandringham Primary School
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Did you know that 92% of kids aged 12–17 watch TV or use the internet for more than two hours every day? This can lead to serious things such as bad posture, problems with sleep, and social skills suffering. But what if we switched off the screens and started reading books more?
Kids these days are becoming more stressed with things such as homework, tests, sports, school projects and much more. But watching TV the amount people do, increases stress. Studies show that reading a book for just six minutes every day can reduce stress by as much as 68%.
Who doesn’t love curling up in bed at night by yourself and reading a book that you love before falling asleep?
Thomas, Year 6, Sandringham Primary School
All of these student samples and more are featured in our new Tool Kit with annotations showing how they have used the Seven Steps techniques to engage, inform and persuade the audience.
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Main navigation, articulating your assessment values.
Reading, commenting on, and then assigning a grade to a piece of student writing requires intense attention and difficult judgment calls. Some faculty dread “the stack.” Students may share the faculty’s dim view of writing assessment, perceiving it as highly subjective. They wonder why one faculty member values evidence and correctness before all else, while another seeks a vaguely defined originality.
Writing rubrics can help address the concerns of both faculty and students by making writing assessment more efficient, consistent, and public. Whether it is called a grading rubric, a grading sheet, or a scoring guide, a writing assignment rubric lists criteria by which the writing is graded.
Why create a writing rubric?
- It makes your tacit rhetorical knowledge explicit
- It articulates community- and discipline-specific standards of excellence
- It links the grade you give the assignment to the criteria
- It can make your grading more efficient, consistent, and fair as you can read and comment with your criteria in mind
- It can help you reverse engineer your course: once you have the rubrics created, you can align your readings, activities, and lectures with the rubrics to set your students up for success
- It can help your students produce writing that you look forward to reading
How to create a writing rubric
Create a rubric at the same time you create the assignment. It will help you explain to the students what your goals are for the assignment.
- Consider your purpose: do you need a rubric that addresses the standards for all the writing in the course? Or do you need to address the writing requirements and standards for just one assignment? Task-specific rubrics are written to help teachers assess individual assignments or genres, whereas generic rubrics are written to help teachers assess multiple assignments.
- Begin by listing the important qualities of the writing that will be produced in response to a particular assignment. It may be helpful to have several examples of excellent versions of the assignment in front of you: what writing elements do they all have in common? Among other things, these may include features of the argument, such as a main claim or thesis; use and presentation of sources, including visuals; and formatting guidelines such as the requirement of a works cited.
- Then consider how the criteria will be weighted in grading. Perhaps all criteria are equally important, or perhaps there are two or three that all students must achieve to earn a passing grade. Decide what best fits the class and requirements of the assignment.
Consider involving students in Steps 2 and 3. A class session devoted to developing a rubric can provoke many important discussions about the ways the features of the language serve the purpose of the writing. And when students themselves work to describe the writing they are expected to produce, they are more likely to achieve it.
At this point, you will need to decide if you want to create a holistic or an analytic rubric. There is much debate about these two approaches to assessment.
Comparing Holistic and Analytic Rubrics
Holistic scoring .
Holistic scoring aims to rate overall proficiency in a given student writing sample. It is often used in large-scale writing program assessment and impromptu classroom writing for diagnostic purposes.
General tenets to holistic scoring:
- Responding to drafts is part of evaluation
- Responses do not focus on grammar and mechanics during drafting and there is little correction
- Marginal comments are kept to 2-3 per page with summative comments at end
- End commentary attends to students’ overall performance across learning objectives as articulated in the assignment
- Response language aims to foster students’ self-assessment
Holistic rubrics emphasize what students do well and generally increase efficiency; they may also be more valid because scoring includes authentic, personal reaction of the reader. But holistic sores won’t tell a student how they’ve progressed relative to previous assignments and may be rater-dependent, reducing reliability. (For a summary of advantages and disadvantages of holistic scoring, see Becker, 2011, p. 116.)
Here is an example of a partial holistic rubric:
Summary meets all the criteria. The writer understands the article thoroughly. The main points in the article appear in the summary with all main points proportionately developed. The summary should be as comprehensive as possible and should be as comprehensive as possible and should read smoothly, with appropriate transitions between ideas. Sentences should be clear, without vagueness or ambiguity and without grammatical or mechanical errors.
A complete holistic rubric for a research paper (authored by Jonah Willihnganz) can be downloaded here.
Analytic scoring makes explicit the contribution to the final grade of each element of writing. For example, an instructor may choose to give 30 points for an essay whose ideas are sufficiently complex, that marshals good reasons in support of a thesis, and whose argument is logical; and 20 points for well-constructed sentences and careful copy editing.
General tenets to analytic scoring:
- Reflect emphases in your teaching and communicate the learning goals for the course
- Emphasize student performance across criterion, which are established as central to the assignment in advance, usually on an assignment sheet
- Typically take a quantitative approach, providing a scaled set of points for each criterion
- Make the analytic framework available to students before they write
Advantages of an analytic rubric include ease of training raters and improved reliability. Meanwhile, writers often can more easily diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of their work. But analytic rubrics can be time-consuming to produce, and raters may judge the writing holistically anyway. Moreover, many readers believe that writing traits cannot be separated. (For a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of analytic scoring, see Becker, 2011, p. 115.)
For example, a partial analytic rubric for a single trait, “addresses a significant issue”:
- Excellent: Elegantly establishes the current problem, why it matters, to whom
- Above Average: Identifies the problem; explains why it matters and to whom
- Competent: Describes topic but relevance unclear or cursory
- Developing: Unclear issue and relevance
A complete analytic rubric for a research paper can be downloaded here. In WIM courses, this language should be revised to name specific disciplinary conventions.
Whichever type of rubric you write, your goal is to avoid pushing students into prescriptive formulas and limiting thinking (e.g., “each paragraph has five sentences”). By carefully describing the writing you want to read, you give students a clear target, and, as Ed White puts it, “describe the ongoing work of the class” (75).
Writing rubrics contribute meaningfully to the teaching of writing. Think of them as a coaching aide. In class and in conferences, you can use the language of the rubric to help you move past generic statements about what makes good writing good to statements about what constitutes success on the assignment and in the genre or discourse community. The rubric articulates what you are asking students to produce on the page; once that work is accomplished, you can turn your attention to explaining how students can achieve it.
Becker, Anthony. “Examining Rubrics Used to Measure Writing Performance in U.S. Intensive English Programs.” The CATESOL Journal 22.1 (2010/2011):113-30. Web.
White, Edward M. Teaching and Assessing Writing . Proquest Info and Learning, 1985. Print.
CCCC Committee on Assessment. “Writing Assessment: A Position Statement.” November 2006 (Revised March 2009). Conference on College Composition and Communication. Web.
Gallagher, Chris W. “Assess Locally, Validate Globally: Heuristics for Validating Local Writing Assessments.” Writing Program Administration 34.1 (2010): 10-32. Web.
Huot, Brian. (Re)Articulating Writing Assessment for Teaching and Learning. Logan: Utah State UP, 2002. Print.
Kelly-Reilly, Diane, and Peggy O’Neil, eds. Journal of Writing Assessment. Web.
McKee, Heidi A., and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss DeVoss, Eds. Digital Writing Assessment & Evaluation. Logan, UT: Computers and Composition Digital Press/Utah State University Press, 2013. Web.
O’Neill, Peggy, Cindy Moore, and Brian Huot. A Guide to College Writing Assessment . Logan: Utah State UP, 2009. Print.
Sommers, Nancy. Responding to Student Writers . Macmillan Higher Education, 2013.
Straub, Richard. “Responding, Really Responding to Other Students’ Writing.” The Subject is Writing: Essays by Teachers and Students. Ed. Wendy Bishop. Boynton/Cook, 1999. Web.
White, Edward M., and Cassie A. Wright. Assigning, Responding, Evaluating: A Writing Teacher’s Guide . 5th ed. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2015. Print.
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Student Writing Samples
The following samples are meant to provide new college students with some helpful context. New students to MCC, some who may have been away from school environments for a period of time, often wonder about the expectations for writing as they enter a college environment. And although schools districts and states in this country have curriculum guidelines and assessments for writing for Kindergarten through high school graduation, some students entering MCC may not have had the many years of ongoing writing experiences needed to develop their writing abilities as others entering college. Below are some links to writing samples gathered from students at a variety of academic levels and written for a) a variety of college courses across the academic disciplines, b) first-year college English Composition courses, c) basic writing or pre-college level writing courses taken on a college campus, d) high school courses and/or assessments, as well as e) middle school classes and/or assessments, and f) elementary school classes and/or assessments.
COLLEGE LEVEL WRITING SAMPLES
Writing Samples In a Variety of Disciplines and Courses
MCC Writing Samples from a variety of courses across the curriculum Writing Across the Curriculum & In the Disciplines: A Journal of Student Writing from Middlesex Community College provides student writing samples from the following classes: Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Anatomy & Physiology 1, Art on the Web, Child Growth and Development, Early Childhood Education–Supervised Field Placement and Seminar, Film Analysis & Production, Microcomputer Applications, Music Appreciation, Nursing Care of the Adult 1, Introduction to Philosophy, Piano III, Popular Culture and Society, Introduction to Psychology, Introduction to Statistics, and Tourism Geography. Follow this link to an electronic copy of this complete journal .
CONNECT Writing Outcomes and Rubric for First-Year Writing CONNECT is "A Southeastern Massachusetts Public Education Partnership" of Bridgewater State College, Bristol Community College, Cape Cod Community College, Massasoit Community College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, & University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. The following outcomes and rubric grid was created by the CONNECT First-Year Writing Group and is used across these public colleges in southeastern Massachusetts http://www.connectsemass.org/writing/pdfs/revisedrubric2.09.pdf
Freshman English Composition– 2nd semester level (equivalent to ENG 102 at MCC)
Victimized Against Her Will in Naguib Mahfouz's "The Answer is No " by Doris Osiimwe-Johnson (a literary research paper) (This paper can be found in Writing Across the Curriculum & In the Disciplines: A Journal of Student Writing from Middlesex Community College; available in electronic form )
Tiara Trudelle: All for Love (courtesy of CONNECT: A Southeastern Massachusetts Public Education Partnership, which includes Bridgewater State College, Bristol Community College, Cape Cod Community College, Massasoit Community College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, & University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth)
Sue Mechler: Finding Cape Cod (courtesy of CONNECT: A Southeastern Massachusetts Public Education Partnership, which includes Bridgewater State College, Bristol Community College, Cape Cod Community College, Massasoit Community College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, & University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth)
Freshman English Composition– 1st semester level (equivalent to ENG 101 at MCC)
Deborah Marcelonis: Overspending is Responsible for the College Cost Crisis
NOTE : Some colleges teach the researched essay and/or the research paper in the second semester of English Composition. This student's research paper was written in her second semester composition course at a college in southeastern Massachusetts (courtesy of CONNECT: A Southeastern Massachusetts Public Education Partnership, which includes Bridgewater State College, Bristol Community College, Cape Cod Community College, Massasoit Community College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, & University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth).
ENTERING COLLEGE: WRITING PLACEMENT ESSAYS The ACT system is one that many colleges around the country use for placement testing. Here are the detailed scoring guidelines that indicate level of writing proficiency, from 1 (low) to 6 (high): http://www.actstudent.org/writing/scores/guidelines.html Although these scores may be used by individual colleges in a variety of ways and at times in combination with reading placement scores, generally a score of 1 or 2 would place a student in a basic writing or pre-college level writing course, 3 - 5 would place a student into an English Composition course, and a 6 might place a student beyond English Composition 1. The following link provides sample student essays, one sample at each of these 6 different levels: http://www.actstudent.org/writing/sample/index.html
BASIC WRITING or PRE-COLLEGE LEVEL WRITING SAMPLES
The following samples are from MCC Basic Writing (ENG 071) students who completed their essays in a proctored environment in two blocks of time. Students are given 50 minutes during the final class to read the assignment options and begin their essays; all writing and materials are collected and then redistributed during final exam period where students have two additional hours to complete their essays. The essays are then read by two different English instructors who grade it as passing or not passing based on the following Basic Writing essay criteria for an in-class or timed essay:
- A relatively well-developed and expressed main idea
- A sense of introduction, conclusion, and organization
- Most paragraphs developed around appropriate topic sentences
- Sufficient relevant supporting details
- Few if any fragments or run-ons that suggest lack of sentence sense
- Appropriate capitals and end marks
- A reasonable grasp of rules for commas and apostrophes
- Few serious spelling errors
NOTE: Sample Essays #1, 2, & 6 below were in response to the following assignment option: Though opinions may vary greatly, after at least twelve years of school, most college students know an excellent teacher from a poor one. Drawing from your personal experiences, knowledge, observations, and analysis, state and explain what you believe are the main qualities of a good teacher. Use specific examples (but please no names) and clear explanations to support your general ideas about what makes a good teacher.
NOTE: Sample Essay #5 below was in response to the following assignment option: Write an essay giving advice to high school students on what they can do to be best prepared for the academic and personal challenges of college.
Basic Writing Sample Essay #1 (meets the above Exit Criteria; Passing)
Basic Writing Sample Essay #2 (meets the above Exit Criteria; Passing)
Basic Writing Sample Essay #5 (does not meet the above Exit Criteria; Not Passing on Exit Criteria #1, #2, #5, #7)
Basic Writing Sample Essay #6 (does not meet the above Exit Criteria; Not Passing on Exit Criteria #3, #5, #6, #7, #8)
HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL WRITING SAMPLES Samples from local high school - 10th Grade Classes (Acton – Boxborough High School)
"Penalty! 10 Yards on the Offense for Lack of Integrity!: Editorial on Cheating in Professional Sports Today" (persuasive essay)
"The 7th and 8th Grade Boys Football Team. But By "Boys", I Mean Boys and a Girl" (narrative essay)
MIDDLE SCHOOL LEVEL WRITING SAMPLES
8th Grade Writing Samples
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL LEVEL WRITING SAMPLES
Grade 4 Writing Samples
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What Is a Student Essay?
Importance of a student essay, student argumentative essay.
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Guidelines in Writing a Student Essay
- Grab a pen and paper (or a notebook laptop). Write the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a certain topic. If the topic is unfamiliar, research, then write what you understand about the topic.
- Concentrate. Clear your mind of everything, except the topic you’re writing about. Think freely, but you are not allowed to think about anything else other than the topic at hand.
- Begin by using simple words. Impressive persuasive writing is different from pretentious writing. As you grow, you’ll improve your vocabulary. As for now, write simply, because you are not writing to impress anyone. I personally think the best writing compositions I have read so far are those that use simple and clear words (and language).
- Organize your composition. After you’ve written everything on your mind, and you’re contented of what you’ve done so far, arrange the points you’ve written into connecting sentences and paragraphs. Arrange your essay into the basic parts: introduction, body, and essay conclusion .
- Reread your composition. Read your composition countless times before submitting it to your teacher. Let someone else read it for you, and ask for some points for improvement.
- Be open to criticisms. These will help you grow into a better writer, trust me.
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Using Live Writing to Provide Instant Feedback
This technique allows teachers to read what their students are writing in the moment and provide timely and effective feedback.
Student feedback should be timely and effective. When teachers give students an assignment, collect it, spend a week grading and commenting, and then return it, the application of the feedback gets lost. With the advancements in technology and technological access, there is a better, more efficient way of providing instant writing feedback to all students. Teachers can give effective feedback at the moment when the students need it the most and when comments are most applicable to writing success. This is live writing , and here’s how it works.
Set aside time in class for writing—it’s the best time for students to write because in class, they have a calm, quiet environment, technology and Wi-Fi, and teacher support. Many students lack such space and support at home.
To get a live writing session started, I generate a document with the prompt at the top or simply create an MLA writing template with nothing more than a header at the top. I upload this document into Google Classroom so that students can make a copy, then have them share back with me so that I can toggle between student papers and see their progress as they write—live. You will need to adapt this to your various technologies and learning management system, but the end goal is to have quick access to your students’ writings.
After we explore the nuances of the prompt and clarify the goals and expectations, I let the students get into their own writing and engage in the process of crafting their response in the shared document. While students get started, I click between the students’ work and make sure they are all in and writing. Students work at different paces, so as the fast writers craft their initial responses, I can give some quick comments for encouragement, redirections, or minor constructive critique. Students will see these suggestions immediately and can either make changes or come back to them later. In the meantime, I move on to other students.
Essentially, I am still doing what teachers should be doing: walking around the class while they are working, reading over their shoulders, and giving appropriate feedback while they are working. Live writing is just more private, more personal, and more engaging, and it saves kids from smelling my coffee breath in the morning.
Providing timely writing feedback
As the students are drafting and the teacher is scanning the documents, the important goal is to focus on the skill being assessed. If the class is working on introducing evidence, then the teacher should focus on providing swift feedback for that, or if the analysis of the evidence is the focus, then the teacher can comment on that. The goal is to not get bogged down by other elements or the mechanics of the writing. Instead, steer students to rework the sections that the class is focusing on.
In my experience, it should only take about 30 seconds to give some quick feedback. As with any feedback, it should be clear and concise. For example, if I am teaching thesis statements, I might write, “This is good, but be sure you make a defensible claim,” or “This is a nice summary of the controversy; can you take a clear position to defend?” I know specifically what the objective is and what the thesis should include, so I don’t bother commenting on anything else and only skim the surrounding material and assess the main skill with a quick comment. This allows me to move through the entire class of about 25 several times in a class period.
You might notice that you are writing similar responses to various students. In this case, canned comments or copying and pasting from a list of comments becomes useful. You might also notice a need to workshop a skill or reteach a concept.
Providing Instant Examples
One of the many advantages of live writing is the opportunity to workshop in the moment. If I am working on thesis statements, then I will copy and paste a couple of good thesis statements into a separate document, as well as a couple that need some work, and project my collection onto the screen. I’ll have students pause in their writing and look at the samples from their class—I keep them anonymous. We can look at the quality thesis statements and discuss their strengths, and then workshop the ones that need to be developed. As a group, the class can assess their own thesis and make changes as they see fit. I can do this in three or four minutes, and then students can get back into their writing.
By the end of the writing session, students will have crafted their own text, seen exemplary writing from their peers, potentially workshopped some of their own writing, and received some feedback from the instructor during the process in the moments they needed it most.
Beyond the beneficial outcomes for students, teachers can use this method to maximize their time. Before the class even lets out, the teacher has a snapshot of how well their students understand the skill, has the ability to reteach things that aren’t clicking immediately and catch students before they get too far off track, and has given feedback to all students without needing to take the work home.
Additionally, because the writing is tracked on a Google Doc and is being completed live in the presence of the teacher, the space for plagiarism or AI-generated responses is limited. A teacher can quite easily see if a student’s document was blank a few minutes ago and is now fully populated with beautiful prose; also, the document history charts and tracks what was written and when. This is an essential component of seeing each student’s writing process, understanding their raw writing ability prior to revision, recognizing the written voice of each student, and tracking accountability for their work.
In sum, live writing is a fast and effective tool to add to the teaching quiver. This method of writing maximizes class time for effective teaching with live feedback and commentary in the best possible moment: the present.
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Writing Sample Guide
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What is a writing sample?
A writing sample is a supplementary document for an application often requested for positions and programs that require frequent writing or research. It is used to gauge a candidate’s writing skills. When reviewing a writing sample, tone, relevancy, grammar, spelling, attention to detail, and adherence to the word count (if one is provided) are all of importance.
How to choose a writing sample?
When choosing the writing sample think about the style of writing you would like to convey. Make sure to choose something that is relevant to what you are applying for.
Writing samples can consist of:
- Research papers
- Narrative papers
- Professional blog posts
- Journal articles
- Press releases
- Other written contributions
How long should a writing sample be?
Always make sure to review the guidelines for the writing sample, as you may be provided with instructions on how long the writing sample should be. If you are not provided with that information, a good rule of thumb is for the writing sample to be 1-2 pages double spaced. Try to be concise and effective with the space that you have. If you decide to use a paper or article that is longer than the length the employer has allotted you (or 1-2 pages), it is ok to provide excerpts if your samples are too long. If you provide an excerpt, make sure to provide at notation at the top that explains it is an excerpt and what paper the excerpt is from.
What if you don’t have a writing sample?
If you don’t have a writing sample, it is acceptable to create a new sample to use for the application.
- Always submit your best writing
- Pay close attention to what you are being asked to submit
- Follow the application instructions and do not be afraid to reach out for clarity if you are unsure about something
- Proofread your document to avoid errors and typos
- Provide clean copies of your writing sample. Make sure to submit copies free of comments
If you need assistance with your writing sample, please make sure to utilize your campus resources:
- Career Center
- TWP Writing Studio
- Graduate Writing Lab
- English for International Students