It can be so helpful to know what the end product is suppose to look like before you set off on a task. Students either never had to take a state writing assessment or its been at least year since they did. Therefore, many of them are not sure what is expected of them. They know the basics which are the same any time I ask them to write but they also know it will be different, but how?
This lesson introduces them to the genre of writing assessments by showing them actual samples of writing that 4th grade students has written for an assessment such as the one they will be taking and are now practicing for. They will also become familiar with the checklist and simplified rubric that could be used to grade them.
This activity will give some insight of what and how to write for the state assessment that is a little different than typical writing.
To begin, I explain that they will be studying samples of other students' writing in order to understand the genre better and to get an idea of what they will need to focus on when they write their stories.
I show them the checklist they use while they are writing and can also use to assess the sample writing. I also show them a 4 point scaled rubric that they will use to assign a score to each sample the read.
To model and guide them on the task they will do with a partner or small group, I show them a average sample, typically a score of two or three out of four, reading it to them. Then I model how to use the checklist by reading down the list and checking off the things I thought they had evidence of. Near the end of the checklist or for specific things I thought was important for students to pay attention to, I ask the class to help me identify whether or not the sample showed evidence of the items on the checklist.
After reviewing the checklist and assigning a score, I reveal the actual score. Then students work in pairs with a new sample and checklist to do the same thing. They can discuss in their groups when they have a disagreement. Also, the checklist is double sided for groups that finish early and need a second sample.
After students have reviewed a sample or two, we discuss them as a class. First, I ask students to raise up the number of fingers representing the score their groups decided the sample received. I then display the real score. If there were major discrepencies, I addressed them through a class discussion. For example, if a group that a sample should have received a two but actually received the highest score, a four, then we talked about it and tried to figure out why and what strategy they can use in their own writing.
In the end, I reiterated the importance of using the checklist to help guide their writing. If they had everything on the checklist, based on our samples, it would seem as if they would score at least a three. If there were missing something, way more likely to score below a passing score.