“Dad, read this and let me what you think,” my daughter lovingly slid her paper across to her father, as he bit into one of her chewy homemade chocolate chip cookies.” I think you will like it.”
“Like it? I love it,” he grinned.
“Really? What grade would you give it an A or a C?”
“Oh, this definitely an A paper”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course, I know an A paper when I see it.”
“Great, would you tell Mom she should give me an A?”
This conversation or a variation of this one has occurred in my home on more than one occasion or another. My kids have reached out to coop teachers, church members and even a grandparent to try to get me to change a grade. As a parent, it is challenging to grade your child’s papers, because judging writing is so subjective. In math or science, and history as well, there is a right answer—in fact, there is generally only one right answer. This is not the case with writing.
There are no absolutes in grading because there are so many elements of writing. Do we count the spelling errors and ignore content? On the other hand, how can we ignore grammatical mistakes that mar our understanding of content? We wrestle with how to properly assess our children’s writing. Clearly, a diagnostic tool is needed to measure writing skills objectively.
Objectivity can be obtained through rubrics. A rubric is a measurement of grading. Different rubrics are needed for different assignments because different skill sets are being assessed. For instance, when grading a journal assignment, you might check for sentence fluency and creative or critical thinking, depending on the type of journal, but you would not grade grammar or mechanics. Conversely, when grading a research paper, grammar and organization are key elements and must be graded. At the same time, it is not enough to grade just on one specific element. We also need to be able to measure improvement. Students want to improve their writing and a writing rubric helps our kids improve their writing.
A writing rubric can be used on a number of writing assignments, I actually grant my homeschool students points for remembering to print their names on their papers. You would be surprised how many homeschool students forget to put their names on their papers.A rubric will help you objectify your grading process and it will help students improve their writing immensely.
Cheryl Carter is the author of Write to Achieve, Write to Think and How to Grade Your Student’s Writing. She is a veteran homeschool mom of five, a college professor, author and a homeschool leader. Visit www.homeschoolcollegeprep.org and www.writeforcollege.org
Here are some practical ideas for dealing with ADHD students who need writing and reading help: To help children with ADHD who are poor readers improve their reading comprehension skills, try the following instructional practices:
• Silent reading time. Establish a fixed time each day for silent reading (e.g., D.E.A.R.: Drop Everything and Read and Sustained Silent Reading [
• Follow-along reading. Ask the child to read a story silently while listening to other students or the teacher read the story aloud to the entire class.
• Partner reading activities. Pair the child with ADHD with another student partner who is a strong reader. The partners take turns reading orally and listening to each other.
• Storyboards. Ask the child to make storyboards that illustrate the sequence of main events in a story.
• Storytelling. Schedule storytelling sessions where the child can retell a story that he or she has read recently.
• Playacting. Schedule playacting sessions where the child can role-play different characters in a favorite story.
• Word bank. Keep a word bank or dictionary of new or “hard-to-read” sight-vocabulary words.
• Board games for reading comprehension. Play board games that provide practice with target reading-comprehension skills or sight-vocabulary words.
• Computer games for reading comprehension. Schedule computer time for the child to have drill-and-practice with sight vocabulary words.
• Recorded books. These materials, available from many libraries, can stimulate interest in traditional reading and can be used to reinforce and complement reading lessons.
• “Backup” materials for home use. Make available to students a second set of books and materials that they can use at home.
• Summary materials. Allow and encourage students to use published book summaries, synopses, and digests of major reading assignments to review (not replace) reading assignments.
See our ADHD books:
Overwhelmingly, time and time again, research has shown the ability to write well is key to overall college success. This is no surprise. After all, writing at its core is thinking on paper, and the ability to think and reason is what separates great students from mediocre performers. In my transition from high school teacher to college professor, I have noted five distinct differences in high school and college writing. If each of these differences were addressed, students, especially adult learners-- those returning to school after a long absence, would make a smoother transition to college level work because writing is needed for almost every class.
High school students write papers that are informative whereas college papers are explorative.
College students are expected to be embrace new concepts and expand upon those ideas in their papers. Most high school papers are generally informative. A high school teacher generally assigns students papers to check for their understanding. For instance, a high school teacher might ask a student to write a paper on the Civil War. The student is expected to regurgitate facts and ideologies discussed in class. A history professor, on the other hand, wants the student to discover new ideologies about the Civil War that were not discussed or explored in class. Furthermore, the student may be asked to research another war and note political, economic or other similarities to the Civil War.
High school students write general thesis statements, whereas college students are expected to form solid argumentative thesis statements.
In high school students wrote very general thesis statements, if they wrote them at all. Students might write: I am going to discuss the way Romeo and Juliet interacted with their families. However, a college thesis is much more specific and directive and really drives the paper. For instance, a college thesis might be: It will be proven that the friar's lack of religious influence caused the death of Romeo. The college thesis should be opinionated and it should be written in such a way that it could be challenged by someone with an opposing view.
High school students may surf the web and find sources to use in their paper whereas college professors will only accept scholarly research sources.
In high school students Googled and used popular sources like magazines, websites and books in their papers. For the most part, if students did not plagiarize, these sources were accepted as authoritative. College writing, on the other hand, requires the use of scholarly sources. Scholarly sources are research references that are peer-reviewed or an articles or books from an academic publisher. A website has to meet certain criteria to be scholarly.
High school students were taught to write in a simple form, whereas college writing requires more invention.
In high school most students were taught to write the typical five paragraph essay. This essay generally included an introduction, conclusion and three body paragraphs and each body paragraph elaborated on each point. This was the way most students prepared for the writing portion of the SAT. In College writing students are expected to write expansively and decipher each point, and the five paragraph essay just does not meet the standard.
High school students write papers using a loose form of MLA or generally no form at all, whereas college professors require strict adherence to form.
Students should know how to cite in Modern Language Association (MLA), Association of Psychological (APA), Chicago, etc. The font should always be 12 point. The research within the paper should be cited a specific way.
These five areas, if addressed will help students to write well in college and beyond. Adult learners, especially those returning to school and those taking online classes, often struggle repeatedly with some of these issues. However, once students master these skills they quickly transform into strong students.
Cheryl. R. Carter, is the author of Writing Success, Essential Writing Skills for the College-bound Student. She is a former English teacher and currently a college professor who teaches writing classes and manages an online writing school. Visit www.Writeforcollege.org
Cheryl Carter is a college professor who enjoys helping other write with clarity and power. She is the author of Essential Writing Skills for College Bound Students and several other books. Her books have been translated into several languages.