In this week's reading from Tompkins (2012), we start thinking about how to assess students' writing in a way that is not only valuable, but reliable as well. Tompkins stresses the importance of using multiple informal procedures throughout the year to monitor and assess students' writing (pg. 84). I agree with this stance on writing, and believe that it is the most thorough and accurate way to assess progress, because you're not simply looking at one piece of writing and grading that with a sort of tunnel vision. Instead you're taking into account all of the writing that the student has done and how that one particular piece fits in and compares with all of their other pieces. This is helpful because every piece of writing that a student does showcases their ability and improvement (or lack thereof). By monitoring and mentally keeping track of how each student is progressing throughout the course of the year, it will be easier to notice when a student may not be at the level they should be, and consequently easier to provide supplemental instruction for that individual student.
I think that many teachers shy away from student portfolios or similar assessments because they believe that portfolios are not as valuable as having the student complete a final essay. While it is true that essays are the more traditional assessment, I believe that portfolios provide more insight into the student's actual ability than an essay does. With portfolios, you are giving the student multiple chances to showcase their writing ability and express themselves, rather than just one opportunity as you would with a traditional essay. Also, as mentioned previously, it is much easier to see the student's progress when it is in a portfolio.
Writing process checklists and assessment conferences are also beneficial (pg. 89). Students like structure and organization, so providing them with a specific checklist that they can gradually move through and "check" off when they accomplish a task would benefit them in keeping them structured. It also ensures that students are being cognizant and aware of where they are in the writing process, where they should be, and where they are going. It teaches them to recognize specific stages in the process, so that eventually they might not need to have the teacher or themselves physically check off a stage of the writing process, they will be able to mentally and automatically do it.
Assessment conferences would benefit students because it invites and encourages them to have an active hand in grading their own performance and ability. Tompkins describes these conferences on pg. 89, "teachers meet with individual students, and together they discuss the student's writing, identify strengths and weaknesses, and decide on a grade based on their goals for the writing project." By conferencing with the teacher and discussing their strengths and weaknesses, it will ensure that students are more aware of what they need to work on for next time through specific and personal feedback from the teacher.
In the future, I will definitely try to incorporate student portfolios, writing process checklists, and assessment conferences in my classroom and make an attempt to move away from the more traditional summative assessments such as essays.