For many, assessing writing is painful, time-consuming, and a completely dreaded responsibility of the language teacher.
But it doesn't have to be!
I've been grading quick writes and other forms of writing for over 20 years and over these years, I've developed a system that makes it quick and efficient.
Read on for quick & easy writing assessment tips!
Use a Rubric
First and foremost, use a rubric!
Rubrics set clear expectations for students and for teachers and make grading much easier.
You can either create a rubric that suits you and your students or you can use a pre-made rubric. You can find one that I use here: imim.us/rubrics.
By using a rubric and especially if your whole team uses the same rubric, you can assess writing in a consistent and fair manner.
At my school, we often "calibrate" the rubric by taking a sample of writings and grading them together to make sure that we are all applying the rubrics consistently.
If you have a team, I would highly recommend this.
Assess for Only Two Things
My rubrics only assess only two things: comprehensibility and complexity.
These two topics cover everything you should be looking for in your students' writing.
And by limiting your rubric to these two things, it makes it much easier to assess efficiently.
What you definitely don't want to do is mark up the papers, correct mistakes, or even point them out.
It has been shown that doing this does not help students improve and it is just a real-time-waster for the teacher.
If you must write something on the paper, find something positive to say and share it with the student.
Is the text comprehensible to a native speaker?
Comprehensibility measures how easily a native speaker could understand the writing sample. Things that could lower comprehensibility are incorrect verb forms, really bad spelling, incorrect word usage, etc. But remember, you're only noting these things if they affect comprehensibility. If they are minor errors and a native speaker can still reasonably understand, then the comprehensibility grade shouldn't be affected.
If the writing is comprehensible, it's at least a C, if not, it's a D or an F.
The difference between a D and an F is that a D shows some evidence of learning and an F does not.
How complex are the sentences?
The second thing you want to look at is complexity. Here you are looking for overall sentence length, whether or not the student sticks to mostly simple sentences, or tries to expand to compound or complex sentences. You're also looking at overall vocabulary usage. If the student is sticking to only basic words, they'll score lower than a student that uses more advanced vocabulary.
If the student tends to stick to short and choppy sentences, then the sample is at a C level.
If they use medium sentences with some detail, often containing and's, but's or, or's, they are writing at the B level.
If they write longer sentences with more detail, often containing because's, therefore's, or since's, then they are writing at an A level.
Don't Mark Up Text!
As I said before, for most students, marking up text is a waste of time. It usually does more harm than good as it raises the affective filter.
Plus it is a waste of time, especially when you see the student look at their grade, disregard your corrections and toss the paper into the garbage!! Oh, the humanity!!
Instead, if a student would like their text marked up, set up a time where you can go over text with the student in person, sentence by sentence. If they are going to benefit at all, this is where they'll benefit most.
For students to get better at writing, they need to read extensively.
If you want your students to improve their writing, doing more writing won't necessarily help. Writing often and consistently will build up their writing muscle and build up their confidence, but it won't improve the overall quality of their writing.
Give students opportunities to read silently, read short stories, and read class novels often both individually and with the class.
Reading is full of sentence examples, syntax examples, and grammar examples. By seeing these patterns over and over again, students will learn how the language works and will eventually be able to apply that to their writing.
Have Students Write Weekly!
Having students write weekly builds confidence and confidence can go a long way towards improvement.
Consistency is key here. When I forget to give a quick write or there's no time because of this or that, I notice that the scores drop and then take a few weeks to catch back up.
They need muscle memory and that only comes with consistency.
But just because you're having students write weekly, doesn't mean you have to grade EVERY week!
I choose one class set randomly to grade for a writing quiz grade. Students don't know which one I'm going to grade in advance. They find out when they get the paper back with a grade on it.
Grading one class per week gets me an average of two writing quiz grades per grading period.
Do you do quick writes in your class? How often? What are your observations? I'd love to know in the comments below!
You can also download our Quick Write Guide using the button below!