Thursday, November 3, 2016

Introducing a New Writing Rubric

Introducing a New Writing Rubric for the 100 Word Challenge  As we continue to improve and refine our writing this year, I thought it important for us to revisit the way we assess our writing. A rubric can be a powerful tool that defines expectations, informs us about how we are doing, and makes clear our areas of strength and areas that we need to improve upon. I have created a 100 Word Challenge Rubric that provides more specific feedback about various areas related to your writing and more clearly defines what "proficiency" is. Today let's examine the rubric together, clarify its components, and practice using it. 

As you can see, for your writing piece to be considered "Proficient" it needs to meet five clearly defined criteria. Let's briefly review these five criteria, as well as some student samples that showcase them.

1. Demonstrates command of the conventions of the standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling. Does your piece of writing, for the most part, include proper capitalization, punctuation, and spelling? If so, you will receive a point for meeting this criteria. Check out the skillful use of capitalization, punctuation, and spelling in the writing sample below. 

2. Uses correct and varied sentence structures.  To earn a point here, not only most you form proper sentences, for example, by avoiding fragments and run-ons, but you must also vary the types and lengths of your sentences. No one wants to read one short, choppy simple sentence after the other. Skillful writers vary the sentence structures they use, which makes their writing much more interesting and improves the way it flows. Take note of the variety of different sentence structures in the writing selection below. 
3. Uses precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language. Do you carefully choose descriptive words and phrases and incorporate sensory details that allow your reader to visualize what you are writing about? If you consistently try to paint a picture with your words, you should have no trouble earning a point in this category. Marvel at the exquisite use of precise words, descriptive details, and sensory language in the writing piece featured below.
4. Uses consistent verb tenses and correct verb forms. Not only do we want to make sure we are using the grammatically correct form of a verb, but we also want to make sure we are using a particular verb tense consistently. One of the most common pieces of feedback we receive from our 100 Word Challenge commenters is that we need to be more careful in staying in one particular tense. What are they referring to? Too many of us, for example, float from the past tense to the present tense and back to the past tense, sometimes without rhyme or reason. Our verb tense usage is often inconsistent, which can be jarring for the reader. Notice how the writer below skillfully and consistently writes in the past tense. 
5. Organizes a clear event sequence that unfolds logically and naturally. Even though in the 100 Word Challenge you are limited to a set number of words, you are still generally supposed to be telling a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end, albeit a short one. Do the sequence of events in your narrative unfold naturally and in a way that makes sense to the reader? Do you sometimes employ transitions and transitional phrases to help move the action along? Do you have a somewhat established beginning, middle, and end? If so, the point for this criteria is yours for the taking. Check out the clear event sequence and storytelling wizardry of the narrative below.  
6. (Optional) Skillfully incorporates dialogue. Looking to take your narrative to the next level? Try incorporating some dialogue. Dialogue can add a level of authenticity and intimacy to your story, while further enabling your readers to immerse themselves into the world you are creating. Even including just a few select quotes from your characters can transform a good story into a great one. Check out how skillfully, but sparingly, the student below included dialogue in their piece of writing.       
Practicing Using the Rubric  Now that you better understand the different components of the new rubric and what represents proficiency, let's practice using it to assess student writing. Below you will find two examples of 100 Word Challenge stories written by two different students (not from our classes). Read each student's story, and then with a partner determine which of the proficiency criteria were met by the student and how many points were earned. Did either earn an extra point for incorporating dialogue? Based on the rubric, would you consider their writing to be Advanced, Proficient, Close to Proficient, Progressing, or Needing Practice?

Story Example #1
Story Example #2
Now try using the rubric to assess your own writing. Review one of your previously published stories or the one you are currently working on. Self-assess your chosen piece using the new rubric. According to the rubric, how did you do? What are your strengths and areas you need to focus on? 

Writing Time  If time permits, you may use the rest of the period to work on this week's 100 Word Challenge: ... as the smoke cleared ... story. Please think about the new rubric criteria as you write and make sure you are doing your best to work towards a level of proficiency.

Homework  (1.) Read for at least 30 minutes at home each school night. (2.) Complete your 100 Word Challenge: ... as the smoke cleared ... story, which we will publish tomorrow, Friday, November 4.

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