If you were to score this piece of writing for the writing skill and thoughtfulness it shows, what score would you give it, and why?
Two Student Answers:
1 - "I would give myself a 3 out of 5 because it might not be clear to some, and I usually don't see some things I need to correct."
2 - "I would give it a 5/10. I just wrote not caring what I wrote."
I chose to showcase these two student responses for the self-awareness that they display. Eighth graders that display this level of self-awareness are well on their way to achieving their goals, because they have the ability to accurately assess their situation. Much too many eighth graders inaccurately assess their ability in everything, including school-specific skills like organization, study habits, or content specific knowledge.
Beyond self-awareness though, each student makes a great "writing" connection in their respective responses.
The first student is aware that he doesn't "see" the things that he may need to correct, as a writer. I'm so glad that this is pointed out. Understanding what to look for, and how to see what you're looking for, is a skill that I still work on in my writing. Further, understanding that a writer can't "see" everything (that's why professional, paid writers have editors!), is important for students AND teachers. In class, we've been working on sentence level writing skills that incorporate using proper internal and end punctuation, with a proficiency in interchanging phrases and clauses to build a variety of sentence structures.
The second student is aware that caring about what you write usually has an affect upon the score that a writing will earn. This student gives himself (yes, it's a guy) a failing score. Hopefully the self-awareness mentioned earlier is rooted in a causal connection: not caring about your writing = bad writing. So what's the first step to improving writing? Caring about what you write. How do I get students to care about what they write? Give them choice. Give them time. Talk to them to help them find things they care about. I try all these things. It takes time, but it's valuable time.