I spoke with my student teacher about a half hour ago. She’s designing an assignment for my students to show-off their knowledge of conventions since we’re ending our unit of study (on conventions) this week. Our celebration is set for Friday, but we weren’t sure exactly what their finished piece would look like, how it would be presented (we’re going for a class anthology), etc. Therefore, I whipped out Traci Gardner’s Book Designing Writing Assignments (NCTE, 2008) and started perusing my highlights and the notes I made in the margins. Gardner quotes Peterson, on pages 2 and 3, who contends the most effective writing assignments help students understand the content and scope of what students are asked to focus on, the organization and development of the writing process, the audience, and the range of choices that are available for the assignment.
The most important thing to us right now is that the students use conventions properly to develop an entry from their notebook. We want to make sure that the piece they write includes dialogue since that was a biggie for us. Therefore, I put together a bare-bones outline for my student teacher to use when developing the “assignment” for the students. (I figured it would be helpful for us to wrap our heads around it before asking the kids to ambiguously produce a piece of writing.) This is the “outline” I created to start us off:
- Task: A narrative that includes dialogue, as well as variety of other details (e.g., internal thinking, action). Your narrative should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Specific words should be used. Conventions are a must so that your piece conveys meaning for a reader!
- Due: Thursday, April 30th at 10:45 a.m. on loose-leaf paper. (We need time to create an anthology of everyone’s writing before Friday’s Celebration.)
- Length: At least two pages in your neatest handwriting.
- Format: Please skip lines. Remember to start a new paragraph anytime a new character is introduced, the setting changes, or a new person is speaking.
- Presentation: Put your name, the date (May 1st, 2009), and the page number on each page.
- Grading: Conventions Checklist (see attached)
- Celebration: Friday, May 1st at 10:00 a.m. in our classroom. You may invite your family members to attend.
There’s an excellent template on page 71 of Gardner’s Book that can help students think through who they’re writing for, what they’re trying to communicate, how they can structure their piece, etc.
NOTE: A review copy of Designing Writing Assignments was provided by the publisher.