One of the joys of homeschooling is being able to help your children put their thoughts into words. However, the next phase can get a little tricky. Evaluating your children’s writing can be uncomfortable because writing is so personal. Your writers are offering you a glimpse into their innermost thoughts, feelings, and ideas. So how do you honestly and effectively evaluate your children’s writing without causing tears and hurt? Try these tips to help you and your students have a more positive assessment experience.
Begin with Praise
Always begin with praise! Beginning your evaluations with positive comments reassures your students that you’re on their side. Intentionally look for examples of your writer’s strengths. Has she correctly spelled difficult words or written strong, vivid descriptions? Has he strategically placed a troublesome comma? Celebrate the victories with a “Great job!” or an “I’m impressed!”
Use a Writing Rubric
The writing rubric is a powerful assessment tool which serves as a guide for both teachers and students. A writing rubric is basically a chart listing all required components for a specific writing assignment. The rubric further defines levels of quality for each component such as Excellent, Good, Satisfactory, Needs Improvement or number values such as 4, 3, 2, 1. A writing rubric offers a myriad of benefits:
- Writing rubrics help to give parents objectivity
- Writers know what is expected of them for each assignment
- Rubrics are easily customizable for varying abilities and can grow along with your writers
- Rubrics can assess specific components of writing such as content and style, grammar and mechanics, or organization
- Writing rubrics work for all types of writing
- Writing typically improves as writers incorporate more and more of the elements on the rubric
- Even your youngest writers can use a simple rubric
Including self-editing in the writing process from day one is key. Writers who regularly search for, find, and correct grammatical, content, and organizational errors will be much less likely to repeat those mistakes in the future; thus, their writing skills improve.
One of the best self-editing methods is the read aloud. The simple act of reading aloud helps writers to slow down and actually listen to their story enabling them to more easily spot inconsistencies in flow and organization as well as spelling errors and verb tense irregularities.
Another great go-to editing tool is the self-editing checklist. There are many online resources from which you can download a grade level or ability-based editing checklist. Or you can create your own. Follow these tips to help your editors succeed:
- Encourage writers to set aside their assignment for a short while so they can begin the self-edit process with a fresh pair of eyes.
- Give editors a copy of the assignment so they need not worry about marking up their original creation.
- Boost self-esteem and invite editors to choose a favorite color highlighter to put a spotlight on the best parts.
- Encourage editors to use different colored pens to mark different types of errors. This greatly aids the revision process because it helps writers to focus on revising one component at a time.
Enlist the Help of Peers
Peer reviews are ingenious! When you provide your writers with regular opportunities to evaluate their peers’ work, you give them a meaningful, authentic editing experience and one of the greatest gifts a developing writer needs—the realization that everybody makes mistakes. Writers feel an instant camaraderie and the positive effects of this self-esteem booster can greatly improve both the writing and the self-editing process. Just be sure to include guidelines to ensure that constructive, helpful criticism is given. Peer reviews also help students to:
- Learn to read more carefully
- Improve writing based on feedback from target audience
- Improve attention to detail
- Improve self-editing skills
- Develop the ability to write for a wider audience
- Learn to communicate and collaborate effectively
- Gain writing inspiration through exposure to a variety of writing styles
Look Outside Your Homeschool
Try an online course like the ones available from Time4Writing. You and your student will be able to take a breath and leave the stress and resentment behind. Having a certified writing teacher assess your student’s writing can also reinforce your corrections without the feedback feeling personal.
So, you see, evaluating your homeschooler’s writing is not so daunting after all. In fact, when you make it a team effort between you, your writer, and his or her peers, writing evaluations can end with smiles all around.