Back in the Classroom

After working for five years as a district-level technology facilitator, I am now returning to the classroom. It's my goal to make my 5th grade class a model for how technology can be powerfully integrated into instruction and learning. Join my students and me on the journey! It's sure to be bumpy, but exciting...

Location: Schaumburg, Illinois, United States

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Evaluating Student Writing

I've been Reading the first book in Nancy Calkins' Units of Study for Teaching Writing: Grades 3-5. One of the final paragraphs discussing evaluation of student work states:
The most important work to save is that produced by the child's own hand. That is, there are lots of reasons to edit, word process, and publish children's writing, but for the purpose of assessment, the writing that really needs to be dated, organized, saved and studied are the rough drafts of what children themselves have written.
A Zits cartoon immediately came to mind where the mother is talking to her son, Jeremy, complaining that he spends all day in front of the computer screen. She suggests he read a newspaper, go to the library or play cards. Jeremy's response is, "Wow, it's like you live in some alternate universe where people actually read the newspaper, play cards and go to the library."

As more students at an early age have computer access at home, we're going to see kids who are more comfortable, and better able to communicate with a keyboard. There is something less "personal" about a typed piece, but for those who struggle with the physical process of writing or the idiosyncratic spelling for our language, a keyboard can be the key that frees ideas.

Our students won't write, edit and word process written pieces, they'll word process to write and revise (just as I am this moment). Why write with one tool and publish with another? I believe Calkins' point is that we need to be able to see how a piece of writing evolves over time in order to evaluate it. Technology solves the same problem it creates - Word's Track Changes feature takes care of the problem. Not all students will be comfortable with a keyboard; many will prefer pen or pencil. We need to let children use the tools that enable them to produce the best writing. However, we do have to teach for ISAT timed paper pencil testing, but that's another post....


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