writing workshop

Back to Basics: Assessment (Part of TWT’s Big Picture Series)

Assessment.  Is there anything basic about it?  As I’ve lamented about what to post on this topic today, I decided to look back and share how I survived assessing writing when I first began teaching according to the Writing Workshop philosophy nearly nine years ago.  Here is a golden nugget:

Assess writing through different lenses.

The first pieces I assessed using a very crude form.  On the left side I listed:  Process; Craft; and Conventions.  The column to the right gave a few words to identify each (ie:  revision; leads; capitalization).  Then there were three big boxes for comments on each of the lenses.  I commented like crazy.  Then assigned a letter grade — mainly according to my gut.

When I studied with Carl Anderson, I learned to refine this process.  He teaches to look at writing through different lenses, but his lenses are stronger and give a more accurate interpretation of student writing.  Carl shares these six lenses to assess student writing:  Meaning; Structure; Genre Knowledge; Details; Sentence Structure; and Conventions.  Here’s another golden nugget:

Read (and reread) Carl Anderson’s book, Assessing Writers.  Here’s a sample chapter online.  (Is it your lucky day or what?)

I’d love to hear how others first attempted to assess student writing.  What did you do to help your assessment align with your beliefs of teaching writing according to the Writing Workshop philosophy?  I no longer use the system I described above.  However, I think it is good to reminisce about where we started so that we can understand the journey and why we assess how we do today.

One thought on “Back to Basics: Assessment (Part of TWT’s Big Picture Series)

  1. Carl Anderson’s book influenced my thinking when it came to looking at student writing. I keep a sheet that has the six lenses on my clipboard as I am conferencing. I have a tendancy to focus on three of the lenses; they’re comfortable and automatic. Once I’ve looked at my conferencing notes on a particular student, I will purposely choose a different lense to look through when conferencing with that student the next time. Even if the child leads me the conference in a different direction, I still try to grasp some idea from the writing to help me know if the kid is making progress in each area. The sheet helps me to remember all of the lenses and helps me have more well-rounded conferences.


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