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Writing: from Teaching to Assessment (Part Two)

Writing: from Teaching to Assessment (Part Two)

06 Jan 2015 Masoud Yadi
In part one we went over writing test content and scoring criteria. We also took a glance at useful tips for assessing writing answers. In this part, however, the focus is on the measures we should take in preparing candidates for the writing test.

Make the best of your time

Writing is a productive skill. In order to gain mastery over this skill, candidates need to write frequently. Therefore, it must be a top priority in a writing class to provide students with writing opportunities. On the other hand, writing is a time consuming individual activity and it might not be the candidates’ best interest to have them do their writings in class. They may do their writing assignments at home instead. Then, class time would be spent on assessment, improvement and error correction.

Task input  

Before candidates start, they need to know “what” to write, and that is explained in task rubrics. Students need to have plenty of exercises on understanding what the task wants them to do. Several sample rubrics must be read and discussed in class, so that candidates get a clear idea about how to read and respond to different task rubrics.

Students need to learn that leaving out any of the items asked for in the rubrics, will result in penalization. So they have to learn to read the input very carefully.

They need to learn how to integrate points from the input into their writing by proper paraphrasing. The teacher must be careful though, as students may easily confuse paraphrasing with copying exact words.

Different genres

In the previous lesson it was mentioned that candidates encounter various types of genres in different exams. As the teacher, familiarizing them with these genres is an important part of our job. We can do this in different fashions:

  • Through explanation: That is if time is limited and we need to be fast and effective.
  • Through models: Annotated samples of different genres can be very helpful and educational.
  • Through analysis:  This is for those who are not short of time, and are probably dealing with groups. It would be a good idea to ask students to analyze different genres and figure out key features in them.

Have a plan

Improvising might be a good idea in some certain types of performances, but writing in an exam is definitely NOT one of them. In order to prevent confusion and loss of time, you need to make sure that students have an overall plan for the writing task.

  1. Reading the task rubric carefully and determining what it demands
  2. Brainstorming. It means jotting down anything that comes to your mind around the task rubric and its demands.
  3. Planning. That is classifying the brainstormed ideas into categories based on which paragraphs will be written later.
  4. Writing paragraphs one after another according to the plan.
  5. Revising the written work to make sure that no error in form or content has been overlooked.

Remember and remind

  • Always time writing practices, as a candidate’s performance may be greatly influenced by the pressure of time limit.
  • Make sure your students understand that memorizing a perfect answer will not get them a good score in the writing test.
  • Candidates will NOT be penalized for writing more than the limit, although the quality of the content can be adversely affected.
  • The answer to the writing test is expected to be neat and legible. Encourage your students to observe this at all times.