Our very busy classroom! A place to learn, talk, laugh,create and explore. I was talking to a colleague the other day and she said, she knew a teacher who once said, it’s a classroom not a lounge room when someone commented on the state of her room. Well, my room is a classroom!
I’ve been asked to moderate some student writing to assist a teacher with her assessment. This is when I stress that we are obligated to get this right for our students and for our own accountability as teachers. So, what do I do?
NB: For the purpose of this post VELS Level 2 will be used.
‘At Level 2, students write short sequenced texts that include some related ideas about familiar topics. They write texts that convey ideas and information to known audiences. They select content, form and vocabulary depending on the purpose for writing, and describe the purpose and audience for their own and others’ writing. They use appropriate structures to achieve some organisation of the subject matter. They link ideas in a variety of ways using pronouns, conjunctions and adverbial phrases indicating time and place. They accurately spell frequently used words, and make use of known spelling patterns to make plausible attempts at spelling unfamiliar words. They use capital letters, full stops and question marks correctly. They reread their own writing and use a range of editing resources to revise and clarify meaning. They write upper- and lower-case letters legibly with consistent size, slope and spacing.’
I’ve highlighted the skills that come up in conversations all the time and they are, ‘ but they haven’t used capital letters, full stops or question marks correctly all the time and they haven’t spelt all frequently spelt words correctly. They can’t get Level 2.’ We’ve all heard this and some teachers will argue that this is correct.
This is when I would like to ask but usually don’t, ‘what have your conversations with the child told you about what they know …. and have you looked at the writing assessment support videos in the Sofweb site? To be truthful, most time poor busy teachers haven’t looked at the videos or don’t even know they exist!
I’ve found (and not everyone) that teachers often look for the empirical (testable – yes or no) indicators to help them assess writing. It’s often easier to look at what a student can’t do than question what they can. I find out what a student can do! When unsure, I ask questions. The writing draft will not always tell you what a student can do or understands.
What to ask?
Go to Sofweb – Writing Assessment Videos for each VELS level. Read blurb below. These videos are very brief and won’t take much time to view. They also have a copy of the video text which are great to read. These videos show how to assess and what questions to ask.
‘This series of writing videos are presented to support teachers to make consistent and accurate judgements of students’ progress in writing, against the writing dimension of the English Victorian Essential Learning Standards. The videos depict student-teacher interactions, which highlight typical student behaviours that reflect the writing standards and progression points. They may be viewed to generate professional conversations about student learning and to report on student progress.’ Source: Sofweb
This is a great resource and really does show the power of teacher-student discussion. Assessing a student’s writing is much more than looking at samples. It does involve teacher judgement! These videos also help to explain some of the ambiguous language in the Standard statements.