I've had a lot of questions on grading writing assignments in the early grades. When I began teaching, I thought: "It's not about the grade! It's about the expression, the learning experience, the CHILDREN!!" I now understand that those are the exact reasons for "grading" student writing: to celebrate the expression, to extend learning, and to support the CHILDREN.
The mindset change came when I realized that a "grade" doesn't have to be a number or a letter. In fact, it absolutely shouldn't be just a number or a letter. I've learned to wield rubrics and checklists and to share data in a manner that's valuable to students.
A pre-k rubric might have simple components like: Did the student write their name? Did they write the focus word from the board? Did they write their own words? Did they illustrate their writing?
A kindergarten rubric might extend components: Did the student write a sentence with the focus word? Did they illustrate the sentence? Did they remember to use capitalization and punctuation? Did they use/ spell sight words correctly?
I would explain these rubric components to students before handing out journals, so they knew what to expect. I would monitor their writing, compliment their thinking, and give reminders of the rubric components. This way, students were assessing themselves as they worked. Wylie and Lyon (2013) found that self-assessment “provides students with an opportunity to think meta-cognitively about their learning” (p.43).
As an adult, specifically an adult who wants to learn to write, I live and die by feedback. I trade work with my amazing critique partners and constantly seek input. People outside of the writing community may be surprised to learn that aspiring writers even PAY for professional critiques. WE LITERALLY PAY PEOPLE TO TELL US HOW BAD OUR WRITING IS!
This year, I've been lucky enough to win critiques from generous, incredible authors, and the critiques I've purchased were worth every penny.
I've even entered contests to win critiques from professional authors, illustrators, and agents. I'm currently participating in #FallWritingFrenzy and #PBCritiqueFest (<Which is still in full swing, and you should totally check out!!!). Contests like these offer opportunities to work one-on-one with industry giants! Prizes like that are priceless for writing hopefuls, because feedback is valuable.
And that is exactly what "grading" should be: Feedback. Feedback that students can use to extend thinking, improve core subject skills, and tap into creative sides they didn't know they had.
Wylie, C., & Lyon, C. (2013). Using the Formative Assessment Rubrics, Reflection and Observation Tools to Support Professional Reflection on Practice. Formative Assessment for Students and Teachers (FAST).
My name is Laken Slate. I was an elementary school teacher for six years, before becoming a mom. I am set to graduate with a master's in Curriculum and Instruction in July 2021! Someday, I would love to be a picture book author. I am represented by the world's greatest literary agent, Joyce Sweeney :)