Experienced writers sometimes write several drafts before their writing is published. Children on the other hand are given little time to write in a test/exam, they don't get a chance to edit their work and are graded based on their first drafts.
Exams leave little time to write all that one wants to, let alone edit after writing:
A typical exam situation in English tests the language ability of a child in a number of ways - Text book/text based comprehension, interpreting poetry, knowledge of vocabulary and the ability to write in response to a prompt. While the first three need a defined amount of time, the last section needs a lot more time to accomplish. The reason being, the prompt is new and hence requires brainstorming and thinking. Then, comes the act of writing down one's thoughts in coherent sentences and ensuring grammar plus spelling for a guarantee of a good grade. Generally, children are left with very limited time to deal with this section, are graded based on what they manage to write within that time and never told what they can do take their writing to the next level. It is impossible for the English teacher to give customised feed back to every child in classes of 35-40 students. He/she is likely to be teaching more than one class and hence total number of students is likely to be nearly 100 or perhaps more.
Generally, children are left with very limited time to deal with the writing in response to a prompt section, they are graded based on what they manage to write within that limited time and never told what they can do take their writing to the next level. It is impossible for the English teacher to give customised feedback given their workload- teaching nearly a 100 or more children across classes.
Would writing in response to a given prompt be given as an assignment outside of test/exam situations make a difference?
This approach paves the way for children to have adequate time to ponder over the prompt, respond and edit their work before submission. The key here is to teach children that writing is a multi stage process- brainstorm, write freely and then edit later for grammar, spelling and punctuation.
The key here is to teach children that writing is a multi stage process- brainstorm, write freely and then edit later for grammar, spelling and punctuation.
Adults get away with grammatical, spelling and punctuation mistakes thanks to the use of software such as Grammarly. But it is unacceptable if children make these mistakes. Marks, sadly are deducted to indicate that there were mistakes that were overlooked. What were the mistakes that were overlooked? These are sometimes pointed out to the child without understanding the child's perspective on the matter. As adults, our ego gets hurt when someone corrects our mistakes. We sometimes even declare to ourselves, that we can't write well. If we as adults can think this way, wouldn't children also think this way and completely shut off any help?
Enabling children to fix grammatical/spelling/punctuation errors on their own
How about rethinking the approach a bit? How about enabling them to note these aspects on their own and make changes that they deem fit? This is possible by showing them that writing is a multi step process.
Step 1: Brainstorm ideas in response to the prompt and write them down freely. Great ideas come and fly away very quickly. The only way to keep them from disappearing is to write them down. This gives children a sense of purpose in the first place.
Step 2: Frame complete sentences if you haven't done it yet. (This allows room for calm contemplation to deal with a task that may itself be difficult for some children who tend to think faster than their ability to write. )
Step 3: Read your work to see if you want to make any change to make your writing easier to read.
Creating spaces for children to share their writing with friends
This gives them a purpose to go till step 3 of the writing process and also makes writing as a means to communicate to the reader at a later point in time rather than for grades/marks only. These assignments could be later graded for academic purposes. In all probability the grades marked this way are far more likely to reflect the writing skill/ability of the child and provide clues for areas in which the child needs assistance.
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