Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time. This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.
Students have had practice grading writing samples based on their standardized test in this previous lesson. The next step is for students to learn why writing samples received certain scores. By understanding why and how writing is graded, they can makes goals for themselves as writers for when they take their state test.
I begin the lesson by passing out the NJASK Explanatory Writing Samples. These are samples from a previous year that students wrote on their state test. We are fortunate to be able to get these back so we can use them as a teaching tool. If you can, look into it for your state test. Even though I am not a fan of teaching to the test, looking at models is so beneficial for the students. It's not only an easy teaching tool but it's a great way for students to see what they will be doing as they take these wonderful tests. The samples for today's lesson are based on a quote response revolving around kindness. The students had to write an essay discussing the meaning behind the quote.
I tell students what the task was and then have them read each sample. As they read each sample they are to notice the score that each sample received out of six. This will help them for the next part of the lesson in which they need to work with a partner to create a list of reasons as to why each sample earned the score it did.
Students are moving from being critical graders to analyzing why. This helps them to come up with specific terms and language for writing so they can think of what they will need to do when they take the test.
Students are quick to judge. The real skill is defending why. They will easily say if a writing piece is bad or not but it can be tough for them to use support to explain why. Today's lesson has them stretch their thinking muscles when they have to support the scores certain pieces earned.
Once students have read the samples, they work with an assigned partner to create a list of reasons as to why each sample earned the score it did. Partners are assigned based on where they are sitting to make it easy.
I pass out extra copies of the NJASK Holistic Scoring Rubric. This helps students to see the specific criteria that was used to grade the samples they have just read. I instruct students to work with their partner to create a list of reasons. They can use technology to create these lists or write them down in their notebooks.
The lists that students need to create is really just a list of why. While many students may disagree with the scores that some pieces earned, I want students to show that they can think critically about writing samples. By seeing different samples and different scores, they can begin to get in the mind-set of how they need to perform when they take the standardized test the following week. They are now moving from being subjective readers to objective scores. When they can take their feelings out of the grading, they can start looking at how each piece is writing and thus can make their own judgement calls for their own writing.
Here are two examples of student lists: NJASK Explanatory Student Grading 1 and NJASK Explanatory Student Grading 2. This video explains how I would discuss these lists with the students: NJASK Explanatory Writing Student Work Explanation.