Students have written an introductory paragraph and one body paragraph for the writing prompt where they have to respond to a new quote. The quote is on the topic of solitude. I let students know that today I am giving them an opportunity to evaluate their own paper. I also let them know that they will practice tackling a writing task like this one again, but with a different quote. We are practicing for a writing assessment my students will be taking in a few days, which I already explained to students in a previous lesson.
I ask students to take out their copy of a packet of sample essays I gave them in an earlier lesson, which has served as a sampling of model student essays that have been scored using the rubric that will be used to score the essays they write for the assessment coming up. I ask students to reread their intro and body paragraphs and compare them to the ones on this packet and decide what score they would receive considering that what they have written illustrates how an entire essay would look. Self-assessing is a very valuable activity for students working on developing their writing skills. The task of self-assessing forces students to look closely at their own writing. Using the packet of sample essays allows students to compare their writing to others, which helps them place their skills on a particular point on the scale and gives them a sense of how much they need to work on their writing. I chose to have them use sample essays to self-assess and not the actual rubric because I find that struggling readers and writers like my students have a very difficult time making sense of a rubric. The reason why their writing is still considerably below grade level is because they don’t know how to do the things a rubric tells them to do. Looking at actual writing is often a better measuring stick for them. Most students are giving their own essay a score of 3, which is just below a passing score. A few gave their essays a 4. The score was assigned based on a comparison of their writing and that of the sample essays. When we first looked at these sample essays in this previous lesson, we discussed what the qualities of a 3 or 4 paper are. We particularly focused on discussing the difference between a 3 and a 4 as that is the difference between a passing and failing score. We will be looking at these again soon.
I distribute this writing prompt on the topic of the use of technology in certain public spaces. The first task for this prompt is for students to explain the argument made in the quote. This first step can be challenging for my students. They often fail to spend enough time with the quote and rush to an explanation that is often inaccurate or incomplete. Because of this, I ask students to begin by highlighting the most important words in the quote. I describe these words as those that are packed with meaning and that will help them understand the meaning of the quote. If students rely on these particular words to make meaning of the quote, they should arrive at an accurate explanation of it, like I discuss in this video. Most do a good job of selecting the most significant words, as shown in this sampling of quotes with words highlighted.
Because I want them to practice the tasks on this prompt on their own, I do not offer them an opportunity to discuss. I ask them to spend time in silence drafting an intro paragraph and a body paragraph for this prompt. I keep it down to these two paragraphs partially for the sake of time, but also because it does give them a genuine opportunity to make meaning of an author’s argument as well as establish and develop their own argument. Students turn it in.