Formative evaluation of writing
Less grading means more improvement
Most English language arts teachers depend more time and energy
assessments via formal writing than on formative assessments
via informal writing.
ELA teachers should reverse the proportions
of time and energy spent on formative and summative assessments,
particularly if they teach teens and adults.
There are five reasons why that switch from summative assessments
to formative ones will make your life easier while improving student
1. Formative evaluation does not require grading.
An evaluation that is formative is far less work for teachers
than a summative one. You have to monitor results and track participation,
but you don't have to evaluate and assign a grade to individual
See how to use informal
writing in class as a formative assessment tool.
2. Students can collaborate on many activities that provide formative
Teachers multiply the amount of feedback they can provide by enlisting
students' help. If students
provide each other with feedback, that's feedback the teacher
doesn't have to provide.
The teacher does, however, have to make sure students are well-trained
in procedures for providing feedback to their peers. Talk
It Out materials may be able to help.
3. Students can provide themselves with formative evaluation.
Students can use teacher-provided aids and strategies to monitor
their own writing procedures and correct
their own writing.
Feedback that students receive from doing an informal writing
activity may be the best kind of formative evaluation: immediate,
personal, and private.
4. Informal writing used for formative evaluation can perform
other learning functions at the same time.
All informal writing prompts provide practice in writing clearly
on an assigned topic. Even if a particular prompt is about literature
or grammar, the writer get some writing practice. By contrast, a
pop quiz on literature or grammar evaluates only knowledge on the
A two-minute informal writing to test recall of literature homework,
for example, can simultaneously give students practice in applying
other content knowledge such as summarizing information, using
source material correctly, and editing their own work.
Informal writing also gives students practice in writing clearly
and quickly, which is a skill they will use the rest of their
5. Formative assessment via informal writing can aid in classroom
By forcing the entire class to focus on a topic for a few
minutes, informal writing aids in classroom
management. When students are doing a timed writing, they
aren't on Facebook.
Moreover, research shows the act of writing improves the
quality and quantity of post-writing class discussion and
to increase the perceived value of the material on which students
My book Shape Learning, Reshape Teaching answers questions about informal writing and gives examples informal prompts used for teaching and assessing learning.