Thursday, October 22, 2009

I Can Grade a Math Quiz but What about Writing Assignments?

Last time we talked about losing the red ink pen and allowing time for development so that today’s assignment doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s time get down to the basics of evaluating your student’s writing assignment, but first I’d like to encourage you that you probably know more than you do. If you think the prose is lacking in depth, it probably is. If you think he could have used more details to support his argument, you’re probably spot-on. So don’t diminish your own ability to evaluate writing projects.

Consider these areas as you look over the assignment:

Content: Did they develop their ideas in depth? Did they use examples, facts, or illustrations to make a point? Did they give enough specific details to make you see the person, place or thing they described? Was the quality of their argument valid? Did they go beyond the surface and dig deep into their topic or did they make only general statements?

Organization: Is there a clear order to the composition as a whole? Did they use chronological order where appropriate? Did they present an argument point by point and save the strongest until the last? Consider the coherence of the paragraphs. Does everything they included fit into the topic? Did they use proper transition between paragraphs or ideas?

Readability: How does the prose sound? Is there an appropriate tone for the intended audience? Did they state ideas in a concise way or did they use big words and complicated sentences that diminish the power of their thoughts? Was it fun to read?

Correctness: Did they use correct grammar and punctuation? Are there any spelling mistakes or errors in word usage?

How to weigh the four areas

Once you ask these questions, you can evaluate each area according to weak, low average, average, high average, strong, and exceptional. This will give you a reasonable idea how to grade the paper. Don’t forget to consider the grade level of your child and praise what you can.
You may find Shelly and I disagree on one point here. I weigh the content double in comparison with the others because I think it contains the essence of why we write. Shelly weighs them all equally because the other three can diminish the power of the content. But don’t expect us to fight over it, because we’ve already agreed that it’s okay to disagree.

Your turn
Do you find it hard to evaluate compositions? Do you have other questions about evaluating writing? What ideas do you have to share?

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