Reflection: Accountability Final Revision: Improving Readability & Grade Level Appropriateness - Section 3: Application

 

There are days (weeks? months? years?) that I feel like a broken record telling my students to use unique, descriptive words and complex sentence structure that is indicative of their grade level.  I can harp at them.  I can write notes on their papers.  I can insist their peers point out instances of poor word usage.  In short, I can do EVERYTHING and not necessarily see a change.  It's kind of disheartening, really.  Because of this seemingly unsolvable issue in my classroom, I turned to the internet, where I found this fabulous readability scorer website.  Now I'm not really NEW to these measures (most of them anyway), but since most of my students don't regularly use Microsoft Word to type papers, I realize that these measures are probably COMPLETELY unheard of for my students.  I remember in middle and high school these readability statistics would just pop up at the bottom of my spell checker, but they don't really do that anymore either.  (You can still get to them, but again, how many of my students are really doing this?)  In any case, I remember being compelled to adjust my writing so these numbers were more consistent with my audience back in the day, and I decided that perhaps my students could use them with the same goal in mind.

I knew that just introducing a tool that produces grade level equivalencies could have some dangerous results in my classroom.  I already have a problem with my comma over-users, and I knew my thesaurus-a-random-word-and-replace-it-with-a-word-I-don't-understand-and-doesn't-fit student population would probably grow exponentially without some pre-teaching on these topics.  What occurred in this lesson really did seem to limit these issues, but I will warn you that it did NOT completely eliminate them.  I would probably use this scorer more frequently (and beginning with smaller assignments) in the future to give students this kind of objective feedback.

Overall, I think it's increasingly important that we as teachers expose our students to tools they can use to evaluate and improve their own writing.  No, these numbers are not the end-all and be-all of writing, but they certainly aren't without meaning.  In a world where so much is graded or scored by computers (including job applications and standardized test essays), they need to be aware of what level they are writing at.  Furthermore, they need to be aware of what grade-level appropriate writing LOOKS LIKE.  The Common Core requires students to read and write at their level, regardless of their ability, so we need to do whatever we can to push them up to where they need to be.  Conversely, writers need to be audience-sensitive, so my highest students who sometimes purposefully write "above" people need to consider the effect of that on their audience.  These assessments can help us cater to students of all levels.  As a bonus, they are also available for students to use at any time for any paper, so I know students will be able to translate this writing lesson into other content areas.  Many students were absolutely shocked by their results (in a bad way) and are pushing themselves harder in their writing assignments.  That kind of wake-up call was exactly what I was hoping for when I assigned it!

  The Benefits & Drawbacks of Using a Readability Scorer for Editing
  Accountability: The Benefits & Drawbacks of Using a Readability Scorer for Editing
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Final Revision: Improving Readability & Grade Level Appropriateness

Unit 7: Drafting & Revising the Argumentative Research Paper
Lesson 6 of 7

Objective: SWBAT improve sentence construction by incorporating transitions, varying syntax, avoiding dangling modifiers, preserving accurate use of commas, and elevating word choice through revisions informed by data from a readability scorer.

Big Idea: Are your students refusing to incorporate grade-level appropriate words & varied syntax? Win the fight with data from a readability scorer!

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