I’ve posted a few times about the twice-yearly writing assessment we do at our school (you can read details about it at this guest post by the talented head of our English Department, Lara Hoekstra: “Instead of seeing students as Far Below Basic or Advanced, we see them as learners.”

We just completed two full-days of all the English teachers reviewing our students’ essays, and I thought readers might be interested in two simple pieces of writing advice I’ve learned from this experience over the years. In addition, I’d like to invite you to share if you have your own simple (and, by simple, I’m talking about a short sentence that both teachers and students can remember) advice that you’ve found helpful in guiding students).

The first is something I learned from Lara Hoekstra a few years ago and has been very helpful to my students and me. She suggested that as we review our students’ essays, we keep in mind the question, “Who is doing the work?” In other words, are we as readers having to connect the dots, or are students taking responsibility to make those connections for the reader? I have uttered the phrase countless times since — both for students’ writing and in helping my IB Theory of Knowledge class keep the same question in mind when preparing their Oral Presentations.

The second is something said yesterday by Roxanne Stellmacher, another talented English teacher at our school. She suggested that we need to ask our students (and ourselves as reviewers of their writing) “Who is guiding the writing?” In other words, is the writer just reacting to a prompt by using a writing formula, or is he/she taking control of the narrative and responding to the prompt in his/her voice?

I think those are two sentences that might be easy for both teachers and students to remember. Do you have any other ones?

I’m adding this post to The Best Posts On Writing Instruction.