I thought that new – and veteran – readers might find it interesting if I began sharing my best posts from over the years. You can see the entire collection here.


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We do a school-wide writing assessment each fall, which students then take again in the spring (using the same article and prompt). We also use an asset-focused “improvement rubric” to evaluate student writing (see earlier guest posts  “Inquiry” vs. “Diagnostic” Frameworks For Writing Assessments and “Instead of seeing students as Far Below Basic or Advanced, we see them as learners,” both by my extraordinary colleague Lara Hoekstra.

Here’s the advice I gave to teachers of our more advanced English Language Learners – please let me know if you think I’m off base on any of it and/or what I might have missed):

* Reading aloud the article and writing prompt, and teaching key words

* “Engineering the text” to create sections of the article that have headings and white space. If you can’t get an editable version of the assessment, you could take a picture using the Genius Scan app and then edit it.

*Letting students use Google Translate on their phones to help them understand the text,  and only to to look up individual words for writing, and not for writing full sentences  (see The Promise & Peril Of Using Google Translate In The ELL Classroom – Share Your Ideas).  Communicating this perspective, and the reasons behind it, would take a lengthy class conversation.

· Giving students three, instead of two, days to write (and make sure they don’t take it home with them)

· Giving a lesson on responding to They Say, I Say prompts during the week prior to the assessment, including writing a response to another prompt (that is the style used in our writing assessments).


Let me know what other advice they should hear, and if they shouldn’t hear some of what I shared!

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

ADDENDUM: Melanie Bean, a great ELL instructor, left a comment agreeing with this advice and adding some great suggestions:

I love this, Larry! I would offer two other suggestions: looking at sample responses to prompts and using evidence to justify how they would score it using the rubric; and secondly, joint construction – writing a response as a class, group, or with partners. The whole I do- we do- you do of writing.

From Alycia Owen:

Great ideas, as are Melanie Bean’s additions. I’d add that Melanie’s suggestion to use the rubric to analyze & score sample prompts is very effective when done in small groups. Students see & hear more ideas when they jointly negotiate their justifications for a score (a great station rotation activity, followed by class de-brief & discussion). Also, modeling how to unpack prompts & having them highlight the specific focus of the writing task.