A significant way to show the student how much they've learned in a subject is giving them a chance to reflect on growth. In the case of writing, our district requires students to take Writing Benchmark Pretests within first few weeks of school. The same prompt is given for the Post-test as the year wraps up. The opportunity for comparison is an eye-opening way to show the kids, "Wow! Look how much you improved over the course of the year!" Before I get into all of this, we discuss the idea of improving in different areas.
I ask the kids to brainstorm in their groups about a range of things they've improved on since the beginning of 5th grade (Brainstorming Improvements of the Year). They take turns adding to a 3x5 card at their table. After about five minutes, we come together as a large group and discuss.
As we finish the warm up activity, I say, "I don't see a lot of benchmark testing in your thoughts. Let's check out this great example of growth." (The focus of the activity in the Closure section is a comparison of their Writing Benchmark tests from 8/16/13 , and the one they're going to write on 5/5/14, which is today's lesson.)
As mentioned above, our district has us test the kids with benchmarks. This includes Math, Reading, and Writing, four times a year. In the case of Writing, Pre and Post tests are identical, which makes it an ideal focus for a lesson like this. I remove scores from both tests beforehand to assure privacy from prying eyes.
They begin their Posttest Writing Benchmark tests (Writing Final Draft using Venn Diagram). This is not a one period activity. In reality, they compose a rough draft, have a break for Specials, and then complete their final (Writing Final Draft of Posttest). A writer needs time away from their work between rough and final drafts. When they return, they reread their earlier words, edit where needed, and revise. Only then should they begin their final drafts.
Once the final drafts are complete, the kids are given an Analyzing My Growth worksheet. With their Pre and Post Writing Benchmarks, they will use the worksheet as a guide to compare both of their tests (Looking back at the August Pre Test and laughing). These are questions that get the kids thinking.
Although it's desired that everyone show growth, some kids may not display as much as others. Truth be told...this Writing Benchmark is actually our fourth test to occur after the statewide testing week, so no doubt they're on testing overload. I think the majority of students continue to give a great effort. A potential negative effect of taking too many tests, however, can't be disregarded.