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The professional learning program

Term 4 Assessing Writing

The theme for Term 4 was Assessing. The aim for teachers in this stage was to develop skills in assessing students’ writing, built on the understandings of language in the Term 3. These skills would enable teachers to diagnose the exact nature of students’ writing, and use this knowledge to plan effective teaching programs. In this perspective, the development of students’ writing is a clear indication of the effectiveness of the teacher’s literacy teaching, which can be planned accordingly. The approach in the workshop was to provide teachers with a set of students’ writing samples, to rank against each other. The following set of criteria were then introduced, and the writing samples were analysed for these criteria. The teachers found it easy to use these criteria, given their experience with the relevant language systems introduced in the preceding workshop.

Story writing assessment criteria:

Is the story genre appropriate for the writer’s purpose?
Does it go through appropriate stages?
Is the story plot imaginative, interesting and coherent?
Is the reader engaged with characters’ reactions and reflections?
Is the creative use of literate descriptive language and metaphors appropriate for the level?
Are story phases used creatively to build problems and reactions, and to describe, comment, reflect?
Are people, things and places followed through coherently to build up context.
Are logical relations between each step clear, eg shifts back and forward in time, comparisons, cause?
Is it clear who or what is referred to, eg in dialogue?
Conscious control of appraisal, such as feelings, judgements of people and appreciation of things and places.
Are grammatical conventions used appropriately?
Is spelling accurate?
Is punctuation used appropriately?

Is the layout clear and attractive?

Is it well organised/presented?

Definitions for these criteria are as follows:

The overall structure of the text. Different genres are used for different purposes, each with their own sequence of stages.
Three dimensions of the text’s ‘content’, including its field, tenor and mode.
The subject matter, what the text is about. From technical fields in science, technology, geography and history, to everyday or fictional fields in stories.
The relationship between writer and reader, eg as more personal (first person) or more objective (third person). Stories may be personal but most writing is expected to be objective. Arguments can sometimes shift between objective and personal.
The continuum between highly written or more spoken language. Texts generally become more written from school year to year – eg more technical and nominalised (changing verbs into nouns eg. Instead of ‘Humans discovered that some plants can be eaten’ – ‘The discovery that some plants could be eaten…’) in factual texts, and more literate in English (eg. metaphors, similes).
Sequences of meanings as a text unfolds, and how they are tied together.
Phases are the steps that a text goes through. They are a few sentences or a paragraph long. Types of phases vary with the genre and the field. A well-organised text has a clear sequence of phases – each paragraph should be one or two phases. Paragraphs in non-fiction texts usually begin with a topic sentence – what the phase is about.
The way links are set up within a text through association between words and groups of words. Types of lexical relations are repetitions, synonyms, contrasts, class-member relations (mammal – kangaroo) and whole-part relations (body – hands).
Logical relationships between sentences and between phases. Four main types of conjunction are addition, comparison, time and consequence. Logical relationships are often expressed by a conjunction, but they are also often implicit.
How people and things are introduced into a text and tracked through each sentence, using pronouns, articles, comparison and so on. So that the reader can easily recognise who or what is being referred to at each step.
How attitudes are expressed, including feelings (happy, sad), judgements of people (kind, cruel), and appreciation of things (interesting, boring). Appraisals can be positive or negative. They can be amplified or diminished (stronger or weaker).
The appropriate use of words and structures according to the conventions of written English. For writing assessment, we can focus on grammar features such as appropriate tenses, pronouns, articles, and plural/singular forms of nouns and verbs.
Spelling and punctuation
Spelling is either correct or not. Some punctuation marks are invariable, such as full stops and capital letters; but others, such as commas, vary according to need.
Presentation and layout

Presentation and layout includes appropriate margins, headings, paragraph spacing, placement of illustrations and neatness.

In addition to the writing assessment, this workshop was also concerned with evaluating the program as whole, and involving the schools and community in planning further work. This included Aboriginal Education Assistants from the schools, together with teachers, Board of Studies personnel and project evaluators Erebus.

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These materials are provided for research purposes and may contain opinions that are not shared by the Board of Studies NSW.