Just a quick post on the fly this morning, really–but one that I’ve been formulating in my head for some time now. I’ve spent a good portion of this fall working with over 150 teachers of grades 3-12 who have been capturing formative assessment data about their students as writers during guided and independent practice. They have also been gathering information and reflecting on their  instructional practices as teachers of writing. Just this week, they’ve begun looking at initial findings and noticing trends. Here are some of the very first things that they have seen. Nothing too surprising for those who have expertise in this area, but for those who struggle to help students write well, these findings might provide some food for thought.

Students Who Demonstrated the Greatest Growth as Writers:

• Were provided clear learning targets as writers and were pursuing meaningful essential questions
• Worked with teachers to develop criteria-specific rubrics, which were used as learning tools
• Explored multiple models and authentic texts prior to beginning work
• Invested substantial time in pre-writing
• Watched their teachers think and write aloud
• Engaged in collaborative writing during guided practice throughout the process
• Learned and drafted in “chunks” rather than tackling the entire piece from start to finish
• Engaged in one-on-one conferencing and were provided criteria-specific feedback during drafting
• Completed more than two drafts of their writing
• Were reflective and evaluative of their own process and craft
• Had teachers who captured formative assessment data during guided practice via checklist, rubric, or annotation
• Had teachers who modified their instructional approaches in response to these findings
• Expressed satisfaction with their own work and with the level of support provided to them by their teachers before, during, and after writing

Teachers of Students Who Demonstrated the Most Growth as Writers:

  • Shared artifacts that demonstrated consistently high levels of reflective practice.
  • Made positive expressions about their efficacy as teachers and their students’ efficacy as learners and writers.
  • Were also able to draw correlations between specific instruction or assessment practices and improvement in specific elements of writing process or craft.

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