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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Learning Log Entry # 6

This week has been totally crazy for me, so I figured I better get going while I'm ahead. Is that the saying? Let me get back on topic. While I was reading Tompkins (2012) this week there was one section that really stood out to me because it's the type of assessment that I have the most experience with. Rubrics have been a part of everyone's lives since we were younger and they've continued to be an assessment tool that we became familiar with throughout our entire schooling career including undergraduate and now graduate classes. During one of my classroom assessment courses at Bloomsburg University in PA we spent an entire two weeks focusing on how to create your own rubric. We were graded (using a rubric) on how well we could create our own rubric. As Tompkins (2012) states, "Rubrics can have 3 to 6 levels, with descriptors at each level." (p. 95) One of the elements we were graded on was whether or not our professor thought we chose the right number of levels for the grade level we chose and that our descriptor words were clearly thought out and could be given to students without questioning from them. I was baffled because I'd seen rubrics, been graded by them, but NEVER did I have to create my own. I had no idea how to create my own. I didn't even know what subject to choose. It was awful. I finally finished (at the last minute because I couldn't figure out exactly what to do because the professor's descriptors weren't very clearly thought out) and luckily I got an A but it was one of the hardest assignments I've ever had to do in my college career.

When I finally got to student teaching it was time to grade a writing assignment where the students had written a letter and were able to type it on the computer (which I had described a couple blog posts earlier) and for some reason I thought, "Hmm, I think that a rubric would be a great idea for this!" I thought I was outside of my mind to go about making another rubric. I found that making a rubric when I wasn't being graded for every little thing was so much easier and way less stressful. Tompkins (2012) explains that, "Some rubrics are general and can be used for almost any writing assignment, but others are designed for specific writing projects." (p. 95) Thinking back, I think that my rubric was a little too general for the project. I should have been a bit more specific with what I was assessing, but now that I have more knowledge on assessing writing, I think that I'll be able to do that once I get my own classroom.

Another thing that Tompkins (2012) chapter showed me was that I really didn't know a lot about assessing writing. In my first grade student teaching classroom my cooperating teacher graded solely on conventions of grammar and spelling, so that's what I did. Now, I know that that's not the best way to go to assess a student's writing. I feel like I would have had a lot more assessment opportunities if I would have been assessing the students during their writing. Taking notes while they were doing writing and while I was talking to them about their writing really would have helped me when we were starting new projects or talking about what they wanted to work on next. I never knew that that part of writing could even be assessed. I thought that writing was assessed on conventions, not the process.

One piece of advice that you receive as a teacher is to do self-assessments of yourself or reflections of your teaching. I think that Tompkins (2012) idea of students doing self-assessments of their writing is a great idea for not only them to assess their writings but for us as teachers to get an idea of where they think they stand and how we can combine our informal assessments with their self-reflections about their writing.

Going completely off topic I want to point out something else I read in Tompkins (2012) that I thought was really interesting. She states that, "Most teachers spend too much time practicing for writing tests, not too little." (p. 103) I actually agree with that. When it is time to take Pennsylvania's state assessments writing is drilled into the students' heads and they practice prompt after prompt until they are so sick of it. It's even boring to teach writing. They don't focus on writing at any other point in the year except for about a month before the state assessments. Teachers spend over an hour a day straight just focused on writing prompt after prompt. It's exhausting for both the students and the teachers.

I just want to thank everyone so much for all of your support and your congratulations! I'll see you all in two weeks :)


  1. Kayla, in spite of your very busy schedule this week, you did a great job of really challenging yourself to think through the benefits and drawbacks of rubrics -- and when too many criteria is too restrictive versus not having enough to be helpful in guiding the writers' process.

    PS Did I know you went to Bloomsburg? Have we talked about this? I have many friends (and family members) who are Bloomsburg alum!

  2. I don't think we've ever talked about this! I graduated in 2010. I loved it there, it's such a beautiful campus. It was a huge transition going from such a small centralized campus to a campus as big as Nazareth.