Friday, December 4, 2015

3 Questions to Help Student Learning Stick beyond the Assessment

Hard at work editing!

Remember the relief of turning in a test so you forget the information? Or handing in a paper in so you could be done with it? How can teachers counteract that tendency to learn and forget? One way I’ve found is by never letting students “just” turn in an assessment: they must reflect on it.

Every time students turn in a final draft essay or paper, they must do 3 things:
  1. Self-assess it using the 6-traits rubric I always use (ideas/content, organization, voice, sentence fluency, diction, conventions).
  2. Write something they learned in each step of the writing process (prewriting, drafting, revising, editing).
  3. Ask me one specific question about their writing.
This accomplishes several things:
  1. They actually have to read over the rubric and put some thought into what the lines mean and to what extent their writing meets the criteria. If their own ratings differ too greatly from mine, that’s a misunderstanding uncovered we can now address.
  2. They review the writing process, and hopefully deepen their understanding of it and their commitment to using it in the ways that help them most on into college and life when no one is setting due dates for each step any more.
  3. I can be sure my feedback addresses something they want to know about. (They probably won’t skip reading comments even on a graded paper that are a direct answer to a question they wrote.)
Here are some of yesterday's reflections from 11th grade AP Language students when they handed in the final draft of their synthesis paper on education yesterday. (See last week’s blog for the assignment and first draft reflections.)

What did you learn in each step of the writing process?

  • Gathering all my thoughts together and organizing them was key.
  • I learned how to gather and pick information I want to use to support my thesis.
  • I learned the importance of actually looking through the text and getting an idea of which sources to use. 
  • Due to all the notes that I had already written down, drafting became much easier than I expected. I was able to find evidence and sources that clearly matched my ideas. Also, I enjoyed writing about this topic, so it was easier to write.
  • I researched effective ways to use a quote to support my idea.
  • During the drafting stage, I learned that the thesis should be the overall guideline for your points in the body paragraphs, and it is important to make your points clear and concise through the thesis so the readers can get a good feel for what the essay is about.
  • I learned that the flow and impression of the essay change by the order of the paragraphs.
  • It was nice having time to revise in class, for I had the opportunity to ask questions.
  • Print out the paper during revision, since seeing it on paper can help me catch things I normally wouldn’t have seen on the screen. It is also important to make sure the paper flows as a whole.
  • After the revising, editing was quite simple, but I learned the importance of using a page break in order to keep my Works Cited page under the MLA format guidelines.
  • I learned to pay attention to small mistakes in the paper, such as extra space between the date and title, editorial format on Works Cited page, and space between parentheses and periods.
  • During the editing stage, I learned that you have to list out the authors within a Works Cited entry if there are 3 of them, but any more than that and you can use “et al.” to denote additional authors.
  • Tenses must be focused on.
What is one specific question you have for Mrs. Essenburg about your writing?
  • How to improve word choice without misusing the word.
  • What are other effective ways to grab the audience’s attention?
  • How much support should I provide for evidence that I find from one of the sources in a synthesis essay?
  • Did my writing improve in regards to fixing my passive voice?
I can get motivated to give feedback on questions students are asking! I feel good that they are taking ownership of the writing process. I noticed that several students asked about word choice. That would be a good focus in our next unit. I also noticed that comments on editing frequently centered on MLA format. Is that a good thing—they feel comfortable with their ability with other conventions, and MLA format is the new big challenge? Or is it a bad thing—they’re becoming obsessed with MLA format over clear and sophisticated communication? Maybe that’s a discussion we need to have.

Now I’ve reflected on their reflections! The learning never ends because in life, few assessments are ever purely summative. Help students become lifelong learners by giving them opportunities to reflect on their learning.

How do you help student learning stick beyond the assessment? 

No comments:

Post a Comment