Classrooms of the Past, There Was Little Research Paper

Pages: 5 (2184 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Teaching

¶ … classrooms of the past, there was little direct instruction of writing. Writing tasks were assigned and corrected. Students were expected to learn from their mistakes but given little guidance until the writing process was complete. Writing is an important component in every content area and is assessed on high-stakes standardized tests. In most of today's classrooms, writing is taught directly. It is difficult for teachers to assess writing, so it is suggested that they teach and assess one element at a time, particularly in the primary grades. Rubrics provide objective frameworks with which writing can be assessed. A self-reporting scaled survey enables students to communicate to the teacher how they feel about writing and what struggles they face. The survey can provide as much insight as the writing assessments and can be used to design remediation or enrichment instruction to meet students' needs.

Teaching and Assessing Writing in First Grade

Intended Audience: Regular education classroom, first grade


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The intended audience is a first grade, regular education classroom with twenty-four students, evenly divided between boys and girls. Testing done at the end of kindergarten and again in the first few weeks of first grade determines the priorities with which children receive Title I support through Reading Recovery. Students with the greatest need are assigned during the first round. The one student who receives special education for language arts is also in special education for mathematics. He was coded in kindergarten and has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Development of the Assessment Tool

Research Paper on Classrooms of the Past, There Was Little Assignment

Children need good writing skills for all content areas as well as on standardized tests. The teaching of writing has changed a great deal over the years, and first graders are now included in the instruction process. "In the past, writing was not taught; it was assigned and corrected" (Jasmine and Weiner, 2007, p. 132). In current practice, writing is often taught with Writers' Workshop, an interactive approach to teaching "in which students learn and practice the importance of rehearsal, drafting/revising, and editing their own work" (Calkens, 1986; Graves, 1983; cited in Jasmine and Weiner, p. 131). Portfolio assessment is often the culminating activity in the process, which begins with mini-lessons that focus on a single aspect of writing and then the actual writing, followed by one-on-one conferencing and sharing of the work. First graders were long believed to be unready for the process, but evidence has demonstrated that teachers can successfully guide them through the process.

The mini-lessons of the first step focus on a single aspect of the progress, which can even include classroom procedures. New teachers sometimes forget that first graders are still very new at the business of school; older students have practice with classroom procedures (e.g., how to use the pencil sharpener, what to do when one is finished) but first graders are unfamiliar with even these basics and must be directly taught. Teachers guide first graders through every step of the process, including how to sit, how to hold the pencil, how to ask for help, and other practical matters -- all before even getting to writing instruction! Typically, six-year-olds, the age of the average first grader, like to "do work," but even though they are proud of how much they get done, they are often unconcerned with the quality of the product. They are competitive and may be eager to show they can fill a page with writing that is nonetheless sloppy and rushed (Wood, 1994, pp. 62-65).

Many schools currently use the 6+1 Trait model for teaching writing. The program creators identified six key qualities that define strong writing, including ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency and conventions (mechanics). The "plus 1" part of the title refers to "presentation," or how the writing actually looks on the page. The model can be used at all grade levels and is manageable at the first grade level because of the focus on just one trait at a time.

The 6+1Trait program provides rubrics on its website for all the traits at all grade levels. When a school adopts the 6+1 Trait program, students progress (hopefully) through the five levels of mastery identified on the rubrics: experimenting, emerging, developing, capable and experienced. For the purposes of evaluating Writers' Workshop portfolios, the author of this paper felt the rubrics set the bar too high; few students would score at the "capable" level and probably none at the "experienced" level. This is to be expected with first grade writers. The author of this paper sought to develop an assessment instrument that would evaluate just the children in this particular class, not as referenced against all students who learn writing through the 6+1 Trait model. The goal was to identify particular strengths and weaknesses to make adjustments in instruction, as necessary, and provide students more opportunity for practice as they progressed in their work. All work will be collected and saved for student portfolios that will become part of the students' permanent records.

Characteristics of the Assessment Tool

The writer developed a simple rubric for each of the 6+1 traits. The publishers rubric used a five point rating scale that the writer believed would be cumbersome for use with first grade portfolio assessments. Instead, a four point scale was created that included a zero for non-performance or illegible performance. The 0-3 scale will make it easier to divide the students into flexible groupings for remediation or enrichment, as necessary. It is, overall, a much more manageable system for one individual to use in a classroom. A score of 0 stands out immediately so that extra attention can be given to a child in a timely manner. The scores 1-3 for writing simplify the choices the teacher makes in assessing the work.

Validity and Reliability

Because this is a new instrument, validity and reliability are not yet established. The rubrics are based on those created for the 6+1 Trait program, which has established validity and reliability over years of use. The classroom teacher could have students write their names on the backs of the papers to help prevent bias. It does not take long for teachers to develop opinions about the strong writers and the weak ones. Removing the names helps teachers be objective and not score papers according to a preconceived idea about quality. The rubrics included in this paper could be used by other teachers at the same grade level in the same school. The creator of the rubrics could use them year after year.

Description of the Scoring Procedures

The teacher will evaluate all work samples according to the rubrics. As much as possible, the teacher should adhere to the rubrics and refrain from comparing papers with one another. They should all be judged according to the standards set in the rubrics. The teacher will read the paper and assign scores. The sample rubrics, included with this paper, make it clear how this is done.

Using the Assessment to Improve Instruction and Learning

The rubrics will highlight student strengths and weaknesses. At the end of each trait study, students will choose the best example of their writing for inclusion in the portfolio. During the instruction phase, the teacher will use the scores to identify students' need for remediation. Children will be assigned to flexible support groups to enhance their learning. Teachers may also want to include a scaled self-reporting tool for students (example follows) that can be used to help students set goals.

As an example of the way the rubrics can be used, we will look at the rubric for word choice. Students who earn a zero on the rubric -- for scribbles or random letters -- can be immediately identified for remediation. The teacher can learn much from a one-on-one conference with the student, from the self-reporting scale, and from consultation with Title I and special education teachers. Did the student scribble because she was stuck for an idea? Is she frustrated because she does not know how to spell the words she wants to use? Was she distracted or upset? Is she still unable to make letter-sound connections? Did she misunderstand the instructions for the task? Does she have poor vision? Is there a learning disability? All of these are questions that can be asked to determine why a student completely failed to do a task. Appropriate intervention might be relatively simple, such as an eye exam and a prescription for glasses. It may be something much more complex, such as diagnosing a learning disability. In any case, understanding why a child fails to perform or performs poorly provides insight into what is needed for further teaching and learning.

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