assessment

Honoring Dialect and Culture: Pathways to Student Success on High-Stakes Writing Assessments

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Author: Michelle Crotteau

Summary: As teachers we often struggle to find ways to honor our students’ home dialects while still preparing them to take high stakes writing tests requiring the use of Standard English. In this piece, the author describes her three-pronged approach within a Writing Strategies class to work with students in danger of not receiving diplomas because they had failed the state test. Students developed linguistic and mechanical fluency by speaking and writing about their interests (e.g., hunting), drawing upon their Appalachian English dialect, and developing knowledge about how to recognize audience-appropriate situations for employing both Standard English and their own dialect. Lots of examples of student writing coupled with her own rationales and experience make this a useful piece for workshops, study groups or professional development focused on culturally relevant practices within a high stakes testing environment.
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Book Review: The Testing Trap: How State Writing Assessments Control Learning

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Author: Carl Nagin

Summary: This review of George Hillocks’ 2002 book, The Testing Trap: How State Writing Assessments Control Learning, is still a relevant read, providing history and research connected to the issues involved in high stakes state writing tests. The review details the validity and reliability of such tests, the scoring processes, the variety of tests from state to state, and the lack of involvement in teachers who score. Worthy of a teacher book group or a schoolwide reading, this review could be used a gateway to the book written by a distinguished researcher in the field of composition.
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Improving Students’ Academic Writing: Building a Bridge to Success

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Author: Juliet Wahleithner, Jayne Marlink

Summary: This report would be of interest to those embarking on college-preparatory reading/writing initiatives; it describes the statistically significant impact of a statewide professional development program designed to improve students’ understanding and ability to write academically in high school, and specifically in grades 11 and 12. The authors clearly lay out the study’s purpose, methods, and guiding frameworks, including one for forming sustained professional learning communities.
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Promises of Coherence, Weak Content, and Strong Organization: An Analysis of the Student Text

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Author: Margaret Kantz

Summary: This report looks at ways in which college freshmen interpreted and negotiated an assignment calling for writing based on reading, along with how teachers then judged the abilities and preparation of the students based on that writing.The study discovered that students and teachers had different understandings of the expectations of the task and that such tasks are more difficult and complex for students than teachers realize. Although an older article, the conclusions of this research are still relevant in understanding the difficult transition from high school writing to college academic discourse. This article would be a useful starting point for discussions on how teachers must examine their assumptions about students’ interpretations of assignments. In addition, it might serve as a model of inquiry into the writing process of students.
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Book Review: English Learners, Academic Literacy, and Thinking: Learning in the Challenge Zone

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Author: Debra Schneider

Summary: How can we best support English language learners in classrooms where rigorous curricula focuses on intellectual practices across content areas? How can we engage in practices that enable students to construct rather than reproduce knowledge, develop deep understanding of disciplinary knowledge and forge connections between school and the outside world? In this book review, Debra Schneider shares insights and successful strategies emerging from her own practice and study group related to the chapter on Academic Literacy [see PDF], suggesting that teaching content “”deeply”” enables teaching standards in authentic ways. An excellent resource for study groups, inquiry groups, or those leading professional development.
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Seeing Academic Writing with a New “I”

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Author: Rebecca Feldbusch

Summary: How often do we tell our students (or ourselves) that making personal connections will strengthen their writing, and yet when it comes to academic writing warn against employing the evil “I”? In this essay, Rebecca Feldbusch pushes back against the strong admonitions of teachers across the disciplines to avoid first person for fear that, in spite of evidence to the contrary, they will be scored harshly on high stakes testing. As part of a professional development session or study group, this essay could provoke productive dialogue and inquiry around grammar, conventions, and other long-held beliefs about writing.
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On the Use of Metawriting to Learn Grammar and Mechanics

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Author: Douglas James Joyce

Summary: In this short article, the author proposes a strategy to support adolescent composition students to develop an awareness of grammatical patterns underlying their writing (errors). The article includes an assignment and student examples.
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Scientific Writing and Technological Change

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Author: Mya Poe and Julianne Radkowski Opperman

Summary: Looking for specific ways to incorporate technology into teaching while leading students through the scientific research process? Noting that writing in science “is a dynamic process that changes quickly with technological change,” this chapter explores specific examples from both high school and college settings that invite students’ dynamic engagement as writers through proposal writing, literature reviews, storying research findings, and peer review. This resource will be of interest to both classroom teachers and those involved in designing professional development programs or seeking ideas for teacher inquiry.
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Because Digital Writing Matters: A Conversation with the Authors

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Summary: The NWP book, Because Digital Writing Matters, examines what teachers, administrators, and parents can do to help schools meet the challenges of digital writing and to equip students with the communication skills they need to thrive in an information-rich, high-speed, high-tech culture. It provides a roadmap for teachers and administrators who are implementing digital writing initiatives in their classrooms, schools, and communities.
Offering practical solutions and models for educators and policymakers involved in planning, implementing, and assessing digital writing initiatives and writing programs, Because Digital Writing Matters examines such questions as the following:

  • What is digital writing?
  • What happens in an effective digital writing classroom?
  • How does digital writing support learning across disciplines?
  • What are fair ways to assess digital writing?
  • How can schools create effective programs to prepare teachers and students to succeed in a digital, interconnected world?

The authors make the case that digital writing is, more than just a skill, a complex activity and mode of thinking that entails, in all grades and disciplines, interfacing with ideas and with the world.
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The Authenticity Spectrum: The Case of a Science Journalism Writing Project

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Author: Angela Kohnen

Summary: Although learning to write like science reporters was initially designed to help students develop scientific literacy, the SciJourn project became much more — a key to high school students’ engagement as learners, researchers, and writers and their teachers’ opportunity to explore “real world” genre-based writing assignments and assessment. This article provides a rich discussion with specific examples for learning to develop assignments and learning experiences that take into account “functional authenticity.” Those designing professional development, grants, summer institutes, or study groups on topics such as disciplinary literacy, genre, or authentic learning/writing will find ample food for thought!
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