What makes writing good?

I start the year with a bit of writing workshop. As part of that we have several discussions about what characterizes ‘good’ writing.
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So when we have a list of characteristics, I ask my students to try to synthesize their notions of good writing in the form of a rubric. We look at some sample rubrics and we talk about which ones work and which ones don’t and why.

We also talk about different purposes. Some rubrics are meant to help the writer improve, some are for assessment. Some do a bit of both. Then they have to come up with rubrics and decide what the purpose of their rubric is.

They hung them on the wall today. We had some ‘gallery time’ and then I asked them which were the most helpful, and which were the best for grading. Generally they pick the more open-ended rubrics as helpful, and the most prescriptive rubrics as best for grading. And then we talk about the difference between writing well, and writing for a grade.

They have no trouble differentiating ‘good’ from ‘for a grade.’ they know that a more prescriptive rubric makes getting to the grade easier. I hope I can keep the focus on doing the work well.
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I keep trying to get to a less grade oriented classroom. With some of the demands of this community and system, that feels awfully tough. Days like these really help.
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Plus, you have to love a rubric that includes a ‘metaphorasaurus’.

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2 Responses to What makes writing good?

  1. D Bessee says:

    I love the idea of having the students create the rubrics! A teacher who attended one of my professional development sessions said that she and her students use the term “effective writing” as opposed to “good” writing as a way to maintain subjectivity. This opens up the possibility of students analyzing authentic writing without allowing (in theory) their personal biases about the content to cloud the effectiveness of the writing. 🙂
    Keep up the good (effective) work! Remember–students show more growth with feedback than with a grade scribbled across a paper…but I’m guessing that is already part of your motivation 🙂

    • Mr. S says:

      Thanks for the comment.

      Yes we are working hard to get away from grading- despite the name of this blog! I too try to use words like ‘effective’ rather than ‘good.’ It does change the discussion.

      -Mr. S

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