Keys to Scoring Conventions Well

Slice of Life2I am participating in #SOL19. Thanks to the twowritingteachersblog team for sponsoring this wonderful event!

When you are reading a student’s written work, try to focus on the writing task and the qualities of writing that include the development of ideas, a sharp focus, a meaningful organization, precise language, voice, and sentence fluency. While grammar and conventions are important, our first read should be about the content – the message being communicated – the inside story that only the writer knows and is now sharing with you.  Place mechanics on the back burner until the second read – unless the writing cannot be understood because punctuation is totally absent and/or sentences are run ons and fragments that make it impossible to read without stumbling badly.

When we score conventions, emphasis should be on readability.

  • Conventions should support and enhance the message.
  • Look beyond spelling. Writers can have other conventional strengths even though they may struggle with spelling.
  • Look for what the student can do – not just what he cannot do.
  • Do not overreact. Two or three mistakes cannot spoil the entire performance.
  • Neatness and handwriting should not be considered when scoring the conventions of your own students. These things are separate issues.
  • Think of yourself as a copyeditor. Ask, “How much work would I need to do to prepare this text for publication? Heavy editing?  Moderate? Very light?

Try not to approach editing skills from a deficit model.  Correcting everything will not help your students. Decide what is most important for students to learn at a given point in time. Remember that too many negatives add up to zero. Nothing is gained. During conferences, give students one suggestion to improve in the area of ideas, organization, or style. Then give one suggestion to help them improve in grammar and conventions. Set a goal with your students that challenges them but is doable for them.

What would you add to this list?  Is there a point(s) you would remove?

8 thoughts on “Keys to Scoring Conventions Well

  1. I think you’re right on with this advice. It must be my own grade school experience, but I’m guilty of first looking at presentation and mechanics, and I miss some rich writing at times. I can only imagine if someone during this SOL Challenge corrected my punctuation, spelling, or even suggested I change around my words, and they missed my message or point. It would crumble my already fragile sense of being a writer. Thanks for the reminders.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes! Especially teaching little ones- we have to learn to ignore the conventions and get to the content. Writing is hard! Getting a message across is hard! Conventions will come. We don’t want to smash the writer inside with pages full of red slashes. I love this!

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  3. It took me a while to realize that there was more to a student’s writing than just mechanics and grammar. Once I realized this a world of rich writing was opened up to me. Thanks for sharing this message, Lynne.

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  4. Good advice as usual, Lynne. Conventions are the focus of comments sometimes because they are easy to spot and there is a right way and a wrong way. Content is harder to respond to; it takes practice. I love the bullet list your slice provides today.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think this bullet is essential to everything in writing and reading and well everything! Look for what the student can do – not just what he cannot do. Once we can notice and name what they are doing it is easy to show them what they are ready to do next. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. This is thorough and useful. Thank you. Would you alter anything much in any way when teaching writing to non-English speakers like all my students? Their main problem is usually lack of good vocabulary because their own language is quite deficient.

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  7. I think most valuable for you in the area of conventions is to look for what your students can do. However, I do not think I would change anything for this list. It is only about mechanics.

    I spend most of the time teaching minilessons about content – ideas and focus, organization, word choice, voice, sentence fluency. Grammar and mechanics is always in the background as I foreground another essential trait writing. Vocabulary is a matter of word choice and their word power is acquired over time.

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