Launching our yearlong Slice of Life writing challenge is an exhilarating experience for my sixth graders. None of them have done any type of digital writing, and the very idea of posting a slice, seeing it “go public,” and then watching as classmates comment and compliment their writing is, as one of my kiddos put it, “awesomely exciting.”
This year, fellow TWT slicer Bonnie Kaplan is along for the experience, too, and it was all the more exciting to have her in room 202 documenting this process from its very first moment, knowing that she will be with us to note important milestones along the way.
One such milestone is finding a way to truly assess this process. In years past, I’ve kept assessment simple. Even though my kids posted their weekly slices and commented on their classmates’ writing once a week, we were still working with our genre pieces in class. That was the writing I was focused on for conferring, evaluating, revising, and publishing. And that (plus all the reading workshop “stuff”) was about all I could handle. So I commented on each slice, offered writing suggestions, and assigned a check plus (20 points), check(15 points), or check minus (5 points), based on “effort and timeliness.”
Even though I was a bit casual about the grading system, I took my kids’ writing very seriously . I viewed each slice and comment with what Carl Anderson calls “an assessment stance” in that it gave me valuable information and insight into my kids’ writing lives. In “Assessing Writers,” Anderson writes that such a stance allows for three “payoffs”:
“First, assessment enables us to get to know students’ strengths and needs as writers and thus to design individual learning plans for them.
Second, assessment helps us tailor our teaching to individual student needs in writing conferences.
And, third, assessment helps us design units of study that focus on the collective needs of the children in our own classrooms.”
Our weekly posts gave me insight into each of my students’ writing processes, and allowed for all of the above. As I read through the 160+ slices and comments every week, I was also adding to my conferring notes and sketching out new mini lesson ideas – I learned more about individual students and also about where we were as a class. Our writing conference were enriched by what I had gleaned from all the slices and comments I’d read. And, I was able to amass a wonderful collection of mentor texts that we could analyze either as a class, or in individual conferences. So far , so good.
However, given the time and effort that my kids spend on their slicing, I knew that at some point I would need to focus on crafting a meaningful rubric that would assess their writing and provide feedback for their new slices. I needed to address three focus areas: the quality of writing, conventions, and comments. And I needed to set a numerical grade range – it’s sixth grade, after all, and (believe it or not) GPA’s are a big issue already.
So, this is what my new rubric looks like:
I like the fact that there is space to individualize each rubric, so that I can comment in a specific way and address specific writing issues. And, I like the fact that I have a numeric range to work with that gives me flexibility in assessing the growth and needs I see from week to week in slices such as these:
Kaitlyn: Slice of Life
Today my sister told me to hurry up and go to my desk. She said, “There’s a good surprise waiting for you!” I thought that she had just put something weird on my desk so I ignored her and didn’t go any faster. Finally I got to my desk.
When I looked onto my desk, I saw a small gift, wrapped in green paper. It said on the paper, ‘You’re Welcome’. Then on the back of the gift it said,’ I bought it with my own money!!’ I was curious now. ..
When I opened the gift I saw a small bookmark. I was really thankful towards my sister. I know that it was only a small gift, but it showed that my sister had thought of me, even though I’m always mean to her and I would never think of her.
Brett: The Yankee Game
I gave the women my ticket to check. I was at the final home game of the season at Yankee Stadium with my dad, bobby, and Colin. It was also Mariano Rivera’s last home game.
When the game started it was so boring. Seven and a half innings past. When the crowd saw Mariano Rivera starting to warm up in the bullpen the crowd started to pick up. All the people were looking in the bullpen to see Mariano.
When Mariano Rivera was doing his final jog in Yankee stadium it was crazy. Everyone was standing up trying to get a picture or a video of the moment. The crowd was cheering so loud; everyone was chanting “MARIANO, MARIANO, MARIANO.”
The whole stadium was filled with flashes all the over the. When Mariano got a strikeout it went ballistic it was as loud as if there was a huge rock concert going on. Then Mariano got another out to finish the inning. When the Yankees were batting the crowd was still chanting. The Yankees got out with a man on first and third. When Mo came back onto the mound there was a different chant going on this time it was ‘ONE MORE TIME’.
He got two more outs and then Derek Jeter and Andy Pettite came out to switch him with someone else. it was a perfect way to end his career with him crying into Andy Pettite’s shoulder.
When Bonnie is next in our class, I hope to do some work with these rubrics – such as having writing partners assess slices from years past, or even add elements that may push our writing forward. It will be interesting to hear what my students have to say about the grading process, and how the SOL rubric helps them to set new writing goals for the next Slice of Life…and the ones that follow. Slice of Life in our classroom – the adventure continues.
I teach Writing Workshop, Language Arts and Social Studies to sixth graders at a middle school in suburban New Jersey. This blog is my attempt to capture all the "stuff" that goes into my teaching life - the planning, the dreaming, the reading, the preparing, the hoping and (above all) the kids.
Please note that the content of this blog is my own. It does not reflect the opinions of my employer.