Day 22 – Looking at Student Work

Hey team. Here is the post for 3/31.

Prior to class, you guys read some examples of actual student writing. You needed to annotated/ prepare some notes about the grammar errors in the writing. Having done this, we spent the day talking about these errors. The goal was to discuss these groups so we make sure we are accurate about labeling the grammar error and we can collaborate about the definitions and pseudo-concepts.

Student Work

Here are some ideas I overheard from each group.

Signs of Genre in the Writing (this lets us know what students learned)

  • Descriptive details
  • Dialogue
  • Characters developed
  • Plot (there is a start and finish)

Student Strengths (this lets us know what students can do)

  • Descriptive detail (these students have a story they want to tell)
  • Taking risks (they make some mistakes, but content is there and they are trying different ways to tell stories)
  • Multiple perspectives (characters developed and distinct)

Student Errors (this lets us know what students need instruction about)

  • Paragraphing (Possible Pseudo-concept = “it is all the same plot/story, so you don’t need to break it apart”)
  • Run-On (Possible Pseudo-concept = “the ideas all connect, so it doesn’t need to stop”)
  • Commas After Introductory Elements (Possible Pseudo-concept = “the introductory part is essential to the main sentence, so you don’t want to separate them”)
  • Comma Splices  (Possible Pseudo-concept = “I have a lot to say and know that I need to break this information up, so a comma is enough”)
  • Shift in Verb Tense (Possible Pseudo-concept = “You use past tense for old information. That’s why the beginning of my story is in past tense and the end of my story is present progressive”)

I noticed some great conversations. I want to mention a few in particular that I found really helpful.

The first was with Jacob’s group. In several student examples, the pieces were one long paragraph and, consequentially, felt breathless and crowded. In others, student work consisted of short simple sentences that felt stunted and incomplete. Jacob suggesting showing these students some Emily Dickinson’s poems, specifically “Because I could not stop for Death”,  as an example of how writers use punctuation to affect meaning. I see the connection with Anderson’s text when he talks about having students manipulate sentences. If students read Dickson’s work aloud with different types of punctuation, they can see the effect commas or punctuation play on their ideas.

Next, Benko brought up a good point about using student errors as a formative assessment. Formative assessments should help guide your instruction. If your whole class of students is having problems with comma splices, then it might mean that you need to teach it to the whole class. If only a few students are struggling, then it might mean you need to do a grammar mini-lesson with those students. As you grade or read, it is important to see your role as a teacher in the process. What can you teach? What can you do differently? What do your students need from you? Something Benko suggested was looking at state standards.

Finally, I noticed that several groups would find sentences with multiple grammar errors. This became problematic as it was difficult to pinpoint how to help the student. My advice was to (1) look for a pattern in the student work and (2) really think about the pseudo-concept/what the student was thinking. But I also understand that sometimes student make silly mistakes or make an almost overwhelming amount of errors. My personal takeaway was that we need to recognize what’s worth addressing. Is it an error that completely messes with the readability of the piece? Or is it a subtle or single mistake? What is the grammar priority?

After this discussion, Benko introduced your grammar video project. You will be teaching a grammar concept in a video that utilizes the key traits of Anderson’s text:

  • mentor texts
  • engagement/ practice
  • visual scaffold

Looking ahead

Student Reflection Paper due on Tuesday in BOX (please refer to the student’s using the student code. You can find the code in the student document’s title)

As an outside resource, I found this link from blog post from (shocker) a Writing Center tutor about teaching grammar vs. proofreading grammar. It is a short read title “The Power in Grammar” and can give you some insight into how you assess grammar. Here is a quote that summarizes the main message of the piece. You need some context (her instructional method), but the points are still relevant.

Using this instructional method gets around some of my issues with the power dynamic involved in fixit grammar.  First, even though I position myself as an authority in terms of grammar knowledge, that authority is shared by the webpage found at the link.  Second, I only “fix” one or two sentences in the draft and I fix them in the email comments, not in the draft itself, thereby avoiding invading the student’s writing.  Third, I leave the rest of the revision up to the student.  Her writing remains hers and she is in charge of revising it.



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