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Theory handout


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  • 1. Evaluating Writing AssignmentsSuccessful writing assignments depend on preparation, careful and thoroughinstructions, and on explicit criteria for evaluation. Although experience with agiven assignment will suggest ways of improving a specific paper in class, thefollowing guidelines should help you anticipate many potential problems andconsiderably reduce your grading time.I. Purpose Explain the purpose of the writing assignment.II. The assignment A. Provide complete written instructions. B. Provide format models where possible. C. Discuss sample strong, average, and weak papers.III. EvaluationOn a grading sheet, indicate the percentage of the grade devoted to content andthe percentage devoted to writing skills (expression, punctuation, spelling,mechanics). The grading sheet should indicate the important content features.Five PrinciplesAs you think about creating writing assignments, use these five principles: • Tie the writing task to specific pedagogical goals. • Note rhetorical aspects of the task, i.e., audience, purpose, writing situation. • Make all elements of the task clear. • Include grading criteria on the assignment sheet. • Break down the task into manageable steps. ***Checksheet 1:Have I • written out the assignment so that students can take away a copy of the precise task? • specified the audience and purpose of the assignment? • included my grading criteria on the assignment sheet? • given students models or appropriate samples?Checksheet 2: 1. Is the assignment written clearly on the board or on a handout? 2. Do the instructions explain the purpose(s) of the assignment? 3. Is the assignment stated in precise language that cannot be misunderstood? 1
  • 2. 4. Is the due date clearly visible? (Are late assignments accepted? If so, any penalty?) 5. Are the grading criteria spelled out as specifically as possible? How much does content count? Organization? Writing skills? One grade or separate grades on form and content? Etc. 6. Does the grading criteria section specifically indicate which writing skills the teacher considers important as well as the various aspects of content? 7. What part of the course grade is this assignment? 8. Does the assignment include use of models (strong, average, weak) or samples outlines?Focus your commenting energy • remember that students can only take in so much information about a paper at one time; • writers tend to feel overloaded quickly by excessively detailed feedback about their writing; • commenting exhaustively on every feature of a draft is counter-productive; • too many comments can make student writers feel as if the teacher is taking control of the paper and cutting off productive avenues for revision; • peer review is excellent way to enhance your students writing experience • typically, it is recommend that teachers comment in detail on the one or two most important features of a paper, determined either by your criteria for the assignment or by the seriousness of the effect on a reader of a given paper.Sample policies on grading grammar versus contentForm:Your paper should contain from 1,500 to 2,000 words, or about five to sevenpages. The paper must be typewritten, double spaced, and bound. Neatness isessential.A Check List of Points to Consider:I. MechanicsNeatness. Is your report clean, neatly organized, with a look of professional prideabout it?Spelling. Two points will be deducted for each misspelled word.Grammar and punctuation. Five points will be deducted for each sentence whichuses improper grammar or punctuation.Form. Is your paper in the proper form?II. Content. . . .NB! – be careful with assigning points for errors – you will have to markand count them all 2
  • 3. Use a grading sheetGrading comment sheets or checksheets give teachers and students twoadvantages over free-form grading: • Even if you decide to use a simple checksheet that ranks students performance on each criterion on a 1-10 scale, students will be able to see quickly where their strengths and weaknesses are as writers for this assignment. • Grading sheets, particularly checksheets, typically save teachers time. Even composition teachers dont comment exhaustively about each criterion for each assignment; they can comment at some length on just one or two points (typically the major strengths and the major weakness) and then rely on the checksheet to fill in for less crucial areas of the paper.Grading Sheet 1 Strengths WeaknessesI. Introductory paragraphsA. Lead-inB. Thesis (narrowed topic + clearstance)II. Body paragraphs: (Effectivetransition, clear focus,development with details, cleartransitional words) A. Bodyparagraph oneB. Body paragraph twoC. Body paragraph threeD. Body paragraph fourE. etc.III. ConclusionIV. Punctuation, grammar,style, spellingGrade for essay: ___________Revision Instructions: 3
  • 4. ***Grading Sheet 2These are the areas in which your paper isstrong weak Thesis Development Paragraphs Sentences Grammar Word choice Punctuation Style General Grading Criteria: Composition 1xxVery Consistently, clearly and effectively communicates it purpose to itsGood audience in all areas of writing: Consistently clear focus, sufficient development, and coherent in terms of organization and style. The ideas are also well thought-out and worthwhile.Good Strong in most areas, but intermittently deficient in one area of containing minor problems in more than one area. For instance, the essay may be strong in all areas but have some problems with audience contact, portions may lose focus or be underdeveloped, or there may be some distracting inconsistencies or errors in style (coherence).Fair The essay generally does the main job of the assignment--so it maintains its purpose. But its either intermittently deficient in two categories or consistently deficient in one. For instance, there may be intermittent problems with both audience contact and development, or the whole essay may be consistently underdeveloped.Poor The essay is consistently deficient in two areas--for example, consistently unfocused and underdeveloped to the degree that the deficiencies undermine the purpose of the essay. An unfocused and underdeveloped essay, for instance, would not be able to convey its message to a reader in any significant way. The essay could also have enough serious problems in a combination of areas that the purpose is undermined. It could also miss a major portion of the assignment--like an essay which has no connection to the assigned topic.Very poor This is an essay that either was not turned in, or is so deficient in so many areas that it might just as well not have been. Or, it could be an essay which completely misses the assignment altogether. 4
  • 5. 7 Tips for Evaluating Student Writing1. Respond to the content first, not the mechanics, of each paper you read.Sometimes we spend more time looking for errors than ideas.2. Respond positively and personally where possible.Caring is the necessary first step to actually writing better.3. Comment critically on one item at a time. Once you see that a paper hasmultiple problems, it may be a good idea to single out one or two conceptual ororganizational problems for comment, suggesting that the other problems will bedealt with on subsequent drafts.4. Be specific when you comment on problems. Point out exactly what youobject to but without necessarily correcting it yourself; that way the writer hassomething concrete to go on when he or she turns attention to revision.5. Learning to critique is a part of learning to write. Include peer evaluationwhere you can in your class. Learning how to be critical is part of learning how towrite yourself.6. Discuss samples of good and bad writing with your class. Bring thestudents into the evaluation process, trusting them to have voices and makereasonable judgments.7. What is said includes how it is said: Dont split grades. It is important toquit separating ideas from the language in which theyre expressed. 5