Teaching and Assessing Writing in the Primary Classroom

I have always loved reading my students' writing, but knowing how or what to teach during writing was a different story.  That was until I realized that I could use my students' writing to guide my lessons. After a few years of experimenting I found a system that worked well for my students and myself and created a tool that has been a game changer!

Each day, I teach a 5-10 minute lesson and model writing.  The lessons are focused on a big idea for the week.  Then my students write in their writer's workshop journals.

I do not grade these journals.  I want them to be a place for my kids to explore their creativity and experiment with the concepts we are learning.  While I do not grade these journals, I do grade their writing assessments.  The assessments are where I get future lesson ideas.  This is where my writing templates come into play.

These templates are perfect for grade 1-4 and I've received a lot of feedback from fifth grade teachers that said that the templates without drawing space work well for them too! 

Over the past years I received requests for a landscape version of these templates for K-1 students. I reworked it and came up with this template below.

The rubrics are editable. So you can change all the text on it. I use the FAME scale because it is what our district uses. What is FAME? Here is the breakdown:

  • F= Falling Far Below the Standard
  • A= Approaching the Standard
  • M= Meeting the Standard
  • E= Exceeding the Standard

I find that using this grading system is much more accurate than giving an A, B, C etc. I don't think I was ever given this much clarity about my grades, even in high school or college. How many of us remember being given a A, B, or C without any explanation? None of us liked that. Clear criteria eliminate that whole scenario.

When I grade them I look to see what concepts my students need to work on. This is where I get my lesson skills to focus on to during whole group or small groups.  I take that idea and focus in on it for the next week or so. The skills can range from sounding out our works, using the word wall,  spacing their words appropriately, using commas in a series, etc.  Prior to handing out the assessments,  I enlarge the rubric on the Smartboard so that we can go over the criteria prior to their writing.  Going over the rubric is vital because it makes the expectations clear to my students.

Children write at different ability levels.  Differentation is so important in writing, just like any other subject area. This is why I provide my students differentiated writing templates when needed.  My beginning writers use a template with a larger drawing area and primary lines.  My more proficient writers use paper with a small drawing area that allows for more writing.  I also make them double sided so that they can continue writing on the back.

Now let's zoom in on the rubrics themselves. Each group has an individual rubric that is tailored to the specific skills they are working on.  My beginning writers are working on different skills than my more fluent writers. There are also levels in between.  Here is a peek at some of the different leveled rubrics I have used:

I originally embedded the rubrics to save myself time (no more cutting and stapling them onto my students' writing), but those rubrics have been a great tool for my kids! They look over their rubrics and try to make sure that they are using the skills they have learned. It adds a whole new level of accountability.  They make grading writing a little easier because the rubric takes the guess work out of grading.  Another benefit is that my students' parents have a clear snapshot of their child's writing ability and a clear understanding their child's grades.  So many benefits from one sheet of paper!

There is no right or wrong way to teach writing. What is important is that we get our students writing every single day and we focus on their needs. If you are interested in my writing paper with editable rubrics, please click HERE for the link or the image below:

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