I’m not going to admit all of my pandemic purchases because not only might I be embarrassed, but also I can’t think of them all. A puppy? yes. New leggings? yes. A Peloton? yes.
When you start cycling classes on a Peloton, the instructors suggest “power zones.” At first, I didn’t know what they were talking about. Then, I suspected what they were talking about. Then, I agreed to the torture of an FTP test on the bike… and now I know my power zones.
I’m pretty motivated when it comes to the Peloton thing– more motivated than many students when it comes to writing– and the power zones, once you have them, are concrete and in front of you. They serve as a very clear guide and pathway for progress, even when I’m riding in front of a screen in my basement. How can I make progress pathways for young writers at home clearer for them? I’ve been working on a few ideas. Please know that all three of these ideas work whether you’re teaching live or in a DL model.
Ask Students For Low-Tech Self-Ratings
One practice I’ve been consistently using when I teach a group of writers is self-rating with fist to five. I emphasize honesty and the importance of self-reflection, and I ask students how they think it’s going. Depending on the time I ask for the rating, I change up the questions:
- How ready do you feel to start writing?
- How solid do you feel with this skill I just taught?
- How productive did you feel in this writing session?
Students respond with their hands or in the chat. A fist is the lowest, and five fingers is the highest. This self-assessment is a quick measure that leads to clarification for some students, as well as small group formation for others.
A Shared Google Document to Track Progress
Necessity is the mother of inventions, and in one of the classes I’ve been working in, the teacher lamented that she had no idea what they were even doing. As a result, I created a “Table of Progress” for the class, and I asked them all to fill it in three times a week. At first, I was worried that they’d distract each other or they’d have a hard time finding their names. However, this system has been great. The fifth-graders have no problem being efficient and reflective. This table has served as an accountability measure, a self-assessment opportunity, and a way for students to shift into the mindset of writing. Sometimes when writers think about what they’ve done and write what their plans are, those plans get done.
A Checklist Made Into a Google Form
Again, necessity is the mother of invention, and report cards are looming. How do I really know what they can do? teachers are wondering. Leaning into John Hatties’ research in Visible Learning and the importance of self-assessment and self-grading in learning, I created digital versions of the writing checklists we use that are created by Lucy Calkins and her colleagues for the Writing Pathways and Writing Units of Study that are published by Heinemann. Here is a version of a third-grade information checklist put into the format of a google form. I’ve combined the checklist with other lessons I’ve taught the students, and I’ve prioritized the items; for those of you familiar with this checklist, you won’t see every item. What I’ve included is what I want to know from students as to their knowledge and comfort with information writing.
Admittedly, my Peloton power zones are clearer fitness pathways than any assessment I can think of to evaluate and determine the students’ writing progress, especially when the determinations are through screens and digital work. Inviting students into the evaluation process is helpful, and my hope is that one of these ideas will inspire you. As always, please feel free to share additional ideas!