Snow Day #2

Today is snow day #2 for our school district. Aside from doing crafts, playing countless boardgames, and refereeing fights with my three kids I found time to begin rereading Hidden Gems by Katherine Bomer. The fifth and sixth grade language arts teachers in my school will be reading this book in a book study group and I am facilitating the group so this time I picked it up to read through the lense of a classroom teacher reading it for the first time. This book is amazing and a must read for all teachers who spend time around student writers of any age. As I was reading, the on-demand writing samples that are sitting in my bag waiting to be scored kept popping into my head. I have to admit I have been carrying these last few papers around with me for more than a few days. They are the papers that did not get scored by the teacher teams during an afternoon of scoring, and I am supposed to read them, determine their score in five domains, and give them back to the teachers. Catherine Bomer reminded me why I feel so reluctant to do this. What can I really communicate to the teacher and most importantly the student writer about thier writing through a set of scores from a rubric? Who am I to determine if the style of this piece of writing is proficeint or basic?
Scoring a writing piece is inevitable, eventually everyone needs a score to track growth and report to “higher ups” (administrators, states, and most impotantly parents) but the work that comes before the score is what really matters. I have so many questions I want to ask about each paper: how does this student see themselves as a writer, what have they been working on, what do they think of the piece? I feel some consolation becasue I know in my school many of those questions are beginning to be asked by teachers.
As I begin to tackle the pile of student writing I am going to keep Katherine Bomer in my head and ‘notice’ what the students are able to do, celebrate the passion they bring to their writing, and plan some teaching demonstrations to model the type of feedback our student writers need to grow.
Before you read another piece of student writing read or re-read Writing Gems, it will convince you that you ‘have the best job on the earth.’