It was very hard to choose just one blog to respond to because everyone was bringing up really excellent points. However, Caitlin's blog entry #6 really sparked my interest when she discussed how we, as teachers, should assess our students' writing. Caitlin talks about how teachers tend to focus too much on conventions of a writing piece, and don't focus enough on the content and meaning. When a student gets a paper back with red pen all over it, it is disheartening and even if they got a good grade the sight of that red pen just screams "HORRIBLE!" As a result, many students' confidence in their writing plummets and they start worrying too much on what the teacher wants them to say rather than on what they want to say. I thought Caitlin put it nicely when she said: "Writing should be a creative and personal activity. When students begin to rely less on what they want to say, and more on what they think they should say, then the piece loses a voice. It then becomes the teacher's voice instead of the student." It's very unfortunate when this happens because writing pieces are generally supposed to be reflective and personal; teachers are supposed to encourage this, not hinder it. I know, personally, it is hard to draw the line between what should be assessed in students' writing and what shouldn't be. I don't want to discourage students from writing, but at the same time, it's not helping them at all if I don't correct spelling and grammar mistakes because they won't know what they're doing is wrong, and they'll continue to make the same mistakes. I need to find a balance between assessing conventions as well as meaning and content.
Another point that Caitlin brought up was the type of comments that we make on students' writing pieces. I think a lot of times we're too focused on just getting through the stack of papers, and we don't really take the time to write thoughtful and specific comments. Caitlin writes: "We want our students to be able to understand our comments/questions, and not feel overwhelmed or confused." While it's true that writing specific and thoughtful comments would take much longer, it is also much more beneficial to the student. Caitlin discusses the idea of assessment conferences to clarify or expand on comments that the teacher made.Taking the time to have individual conferences about students' writing would be ideal -- it might not always be a realistic option but for important writing assignments I think it would be an essential component that would help the student grow as a writer.