What Works:

Scaffolding Student Writing

Setting Reasonable Expectations for Student Work

Working with middle schoolers, I have found that I frequently expect students to have skill sets that they have not been given yet. It is easy for me to ask students that their work be "polished" or ask that they "contain no grammatical errors", but if I haven't taught lessons on grammar or I haven't explicitly discussed how to proofread and polish a piece of writing, my students will likely not have these skills. I have learned that when asking students to create pieces of writing, it is important that my requirements include only things that I have taught.

As a result, when I create rubrics, I have learned to only include criteria on which I have conducted explicit lessons. As an example, if I would like my students to use a formal writing style in their work, then I need to teach a mini-lessons on the differences between formal and informal language use. When designing rubrics, I have learned to design them based on the lessons I have taught students, not what I would expect a perfect example of the particular piece of writing to look like. This ensures that students have the skills necessary to complete the tasks I have asked of them.

Supporting Students Through the Writing Process

Many of my students work very slowly, or have difficulty breaking up a large project into component parts. Other students might have difficulty planning the stages of the writing project. This results in my students feeling overwhelmed when they are assigned doing extended writing projects. Often, these students do not manage to include all of the required components in their finished work.

To solve this issue, I began creating "Pre-Writing Guides" to force my students to plan out what they are writing and think through each component of the assignment. The Pre-Writing Guide will include all of the necessary components for the assignment, functioning as a checklist for the students to monitor their own progress. Additionally, it helps me to monitor my students' progress myself, and I can give students participation points based on work days based on how much of the guide they have filled out.