Thursday, July 24, 2008

Assessing Writers

I just finished the book, Assessing Writers, by Carl Anderson. The following are my thoughts and comments after reading it.

I enjoyed the bullet points in each chapter that gave me tips on guiding the conferences as well as what to do as I'm assessing their writing. I have several pages that I am planning on copying and posting in my conferencing notebook.

One big idea that jumped out (because this has happened in years past) is that when a child struggles with the question, What do I write about, needs to figure out WHY they should write. I want to make sure the purpose of writing is pushed in my classroom this year. I feel more of a writer myself now and will be able to say to the students, when I write, I do this. I will hopefully be able to give them a more purposeful use for their writing this year.

I want to make sure that the meaning behind my students' writing is also what they are trying to say. Rather than just a retelling, asking them what's important. Why did you include this section? How are you letting your readers know what the most important parts are?

Students can miss errors because they don't know they are errors. This makes so much sense! It's my job then to point out (not all) but an error and explain why and show them how to correct it.

I want to change and go back to how I use to have my conference notes. I keep a two column page where I write down what I notice and then on the other side what I teach and their future goals. This past year I kept their reading and writing notes together because I dived them up into groups (not based on ability - I tried to spread them out). What I found hard was if I had an impromptu conference or if I gathered a group of students based on the same need or if I had taken home their work to read and then taken notes. I wasn't able to put all of this information into their notes and then it looked as if I hadn't gathered as much knowledge as I had. I also couldn't carry all of the touchstones with me all of the time. I had left them behind or in another notebook. This year, they will all be at my fingertips in this binder. ***What are your thoughts, teachers? How do you organize your notes for your classes? What should I do for their reading notes? Same thing?

Some other questions I want to pose to the class or in conferences in general: Why do I conference with you? What do you mean by...? Why are you writing this? What does this piece need?

Overall, I am glad I read the book. I am going to start Lucy Calkins book, The Art of Teaching Reading, next.

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