December 14, 2005

Evaluating Children's Writing

Molly Reppe
Engl 5902
Linda Miller Cleary
Dec. 12, 2005

Evaluating Children’s Writing
Written by Suzanne Bratcher


I chose the book Evaluating Children’s Writing because I have a fear of assessment. To me I cannot see why we as teachers should have to put a grade on writing. I believe writing should be more of a personal accomplishment. Sure, grammar and spelling should be graded and students do need to be assessed on their progress; however, why can’t this be graded pass or fail?
Bratcher reveals the purpose of her book in the preface. She states “It is about judging children’s progress in writing, and it is about arriving at numbers or letters, checks and minuses, or smiling and frowning faces, whatever icons teachers use to communicate degrees of success (or failure) to students. (Vii.) Bratcher decided to write this book to answer a burning question she shared with many fellow teachers. That question was “How do I grade my students’ writing?? She has found that there are many answers to this question and that they all depend on the context of the writing assignment.
There are three parts to this book. Part One - The Objectives of Evaluation discusses topics: How We Feel About Grading, Specific Situations, and Pieces of the Grading Puzzle. The previous topics are all titles of the chapters. Bratcher states that writing must have purpose in this first section of the book. She gives examples of students writing to prove the objectives of evaluating childrens’ writing.
In Part Two of the book called Evaluation Options Bratcher gives approaches to grading, strategies on responses and management, and evaluation styles. This section has a lot of good examples of different kinds of evaluations. She uses real papers written by students and shows how she would evaluate them using the different approaches to grading.
Finally Part three of the book called Using Grading as a Teaching Tool refers to tools of the trade, finding a way to have grading serve the teacher, getting away from the stereotype of red ink, and teaching yourself how to grade. In this section Bratcher explain that there are four steps to grading. 1. Pre-grading 2. Guessing 3. Re-grading 4. Grading.
Favorite Quotes and Definitions
“The writing teacher must not be a judge, but a physican. His job is not to punish, but to heal.? (Donald Murray) (Yes she quotes many other authors we have read including Linda!)
“It isn’t productive to connect writing with grades.? (Cleary, 1991, p.30).
“If we choose a grading option that matches our teaching purposes, we do not need to bleed at all. And neither do our students.? (Bratcher p.6).
Grading- Communication between teacher and student that is designed to enhance the student’s writing. (Bratcher’s definition p.9).
“In an ideal world where every child (or even most) came to school with an internalized self-estem that had no reference to success or failure in school, grades would not have this power. But in the world in which we teach, grades have very great power, and no discussion of evaluation would be complete without someone mention of that power.? (pg 117).
The above themes and ideas from the book are only a few of the many from the book. I found this book to be very instructional. This book would be a great resource and reference for teacher to use when trying to decide how to grade their students’ writing.
This book is very easy to read and I think all teachers can relate to the fear of grading writing. At the end of each of her chapters Bratcher has a summary and Exercises. The exercises really get you involved. They ask the teacher to look into their own personal writing experience and then to turn around and evaluate his/her class’. I also really like her ways of evaluating writing; she gives lots of examples.
Now it’s your turn to blog your ideas!
1. Do you believe that personal writing should be graded or just pass fail?
2. Do you fear having to grade writing someday?
3. Would a book like this one help relive some of that stress that grading writing brings on?

Evaluating Children’s Writing. Bratcher, Suzanne. St. Martin’s Press Inc. New York, NY. Copyright 1994.

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