Friday, May 11, 2018

Writing 1 -- Grades are Coming!

Dear CHAT Writing 1 Students & Parents,

I've just finished calculating the grades for the Spring semester, and you will be finding them in your inbox by the end of the week.  As tutors, these are suggested grades for you as homeschooling families to consider.

For those who are new to my classes, let me share my thoughts on grades.  As I homeschooled, I didn't give my children grades.  I felt that grades were far too subjective.  I taught my own children for mastery.  We didn't proceed with a topic until they were ready no matter how long that took.  In a class setting, knowing where each student is with regards to his/her understanding of a topic is not possible, so any grade given is not a complete representation of what the student learned or accomplished this year.

Letter grades are a funny thing.  For some students, it becomes the only motivation for doing well.  For some, it becomes a measure of their worth as a person or as an academic learner.  I personally don't like these "side effects" of the grading system.  On the other hand, grades can be a valid reflection and reward for working hard, being diligent, and understanding the materials.

When teaching students to be good writers, I give a lot of consideration for growth and improvement. Each student has a starting place; over time I look for him or her to learn the mechanics of grammar, good writing techniques, and analytical thinking skills.

For this class, I gave points for attendance, participation, short assignments, literature assignments, grammar exercises, and longer essays. (I tend to be an "easy grader" and like to see my students encouraged to do their best.)  For these essay assignments, the final drafts were graded using a rubric that divided the papers into the following categories:  focus, content, organization, and mechanics.  The grades will be divided into the following categories:  Assignments (Quick Writes and in class activities), Literature, and Writing.  A student may have been strong in one area and not in another, and this will be reflected in these categories.  The categories are not evenly weighted; in other words, 100% in Assignments, which were almost all Quick Writes, does not have the same value as 100% in Grammar, which included lots of worksheets and new material to learn.

Each student (and parents) will receive an e-mail with percentages and suggested grades for this semester.  I’ve seen each student improve with each paper.  Good Work!

Tammy Prichard

Writing 1 -- Grades are coming!
Grades, Percentages, and Scores Clarification

Grades, Percentages, and Scores Clarification


In addition to my earlier comments about grades in general, I want to clarify how I have scored and graded my students this semester.  Firstly, I've divided the work done in the class into categories:  Assignments, Writing, Grammar, and Literature.  Each category is somewhat self-explanatory, except for perhaps the "Assignments" section.  This is where I put our Quick Writes, vocabulary work, and any other class participation scores.

For the past two years I've been using My GradeBook, an online grade book.  With this program, I can assign a category to each assignment, for example, Writing, Literature, Grammar, Assignments (in-class work.)  My GradeBook figures percentages for total scores and for scores within each of these categories. 

However, the four categories used for Writing 1 did not have the same number of assignments, so a straight averaging of the scores does not give an accurate total percentage/grade.  For example, the Assignments category had 16 scores, and 15 of them were small, 5-point Quick Writes.  Writing section had fewer assignments, but the scores were higher per assignment.

Though the categories are not exactly even, I feel that dividing the scores like this is helpful because it helps parent, students, and teacher have a better picture of the work done in the semester.  For example, if a student scores 100% on this Assignments section, I know that he showed up and participated well in class.  A low score in the Literature section is most likely a sign of a significant number of missing assignments.  Likewise, a low score in grammar could be because assignments were not handed in, or it could be a lack of knowledge in this area. As it is with all homework assignments for any subject area, the scores reflect a mix of quantity and quality. 

When you get the grades, you should see a small table like this:


I hope I haven't further confused the grading for this class.  Working with students to help them develop into first-rate thinkers and writers is my  primary goal.  Points, scores, percentages, and grades are only small parts in the learning process.

Blessings to all of you,
Tammy Prichard

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Writing 1 Class Notes -- Week 15 (May 10)


Well, we've made it through another great year at CHAT.   I know that these great students learned a lot -- just compare their first essays with their final ones!

Even though I had a full day planned for the class, we didn't skip the Quick Write.  Students had two options:  they could write an end of the year thank you letter to their parents or they could brainstorm and list as much as they could remember about what they learned this year.  As we went around the room, they commented on both academic topics and every day life learning.  

We didn't do any Words of the Day this week.  I wanted to make sure we had time for the rest of our activities.

I handed back all the homework that I had graded, and students handed in their Reflection Papers along with any other homework that they had for me.  Today was the last day to hand in homework.  My hope is to get everything graded and have the grades sent out by the beginning of next week.

Now for the fun stuff ...
We finished our Poetry Jam.  Team 4 (Ellie P, Samantha, Jacob, and Emma) and Team 5 (Joshua, Stevan (pinch-hitting for Ellie T), Aidan, and Joseph recited against each other, while the other 3 teams judged.  We had a great collection of poems, some memorized and some originals.  As far as I'm concerned everyone who participated was a winner!  We also heard poetry presentations from our "MVPs," the top scorers from each team.  We finished our poetry with the 5 teams doing a class reading of Dr. Seuss's "Oh the Places You will Go" with a rap background.

Remaining in our teams, the class then played a Jeopardy game with questions related to the grammar, writing, and literature that we've covered this year.  

Today was a bitter sweet day.  After eight great years at CHAT, I will miss engaging with young student writers.  I'm pretty proud of these kids.  They've written well, engaged well in class discussions, worked hard on homework, and been generally great all-around kids.  We had a marvelous year reading and writing!  

Assignments for Next Week:

This week's links:
Class Notes 

Have a great summer!
Mrs. Prichard

Friday, May 4, 2018

Writing 1 Class Notes -- Week 14 (May 10)


It's Spring, and before we know it Summer will be here, too.  While you may still have more school to do at home, I can tell that students are ready for a change and for the end of CHAT classes. We've had a great year and they've worked hard!

For our Quick Write today, I used the following prompts.  Students could write about one or more, and they always have the option to write about something else that is one their minds.  I know of at least one student who combined the prompts.  
#1 -- Describe your worst day ever.
#2 -- Describe your best day ever.
#3 -- "I couldn't believe my eyes . . . "

Our Words of the Day were all words of Latin roots:
incognito -- fr. Latin, in, "not" and cogito, "to know" -- when the true identity of a person is not known or is hidden
muscle -- fr. Latin mus, "mouse" -- Ancient Romans thought that the movement of muscles were somewhat mouse-like.
companion -- fr. Latin com, "with" and panis, "bread" -- The Old French version of this word meant someone with whom you would break bread.

Following our beginning of class activities, I checked in with their final essay assignment, which was the Essay Re-Write.  Some students had asked if they could really alter the essay, and I'll never say "no" to doing more writing.  I also mentioned that next week, May 10, will be their last chance to hand in any homework.  

Their very last assignment for the class is to write a Reflection Paper.  This doesn't need to be long, or perfectly written, but I want them to take some time and think about what and how they have learned this year.  (I wrote a blog post a few years ago, "The Value of Reflection Papers" that might be helpful to read.)  For these papers, students should include the following
Paragraph #1 -- Answer the question, "What have you learned this year?"  (They can do this with a mix of sentences and lists.)
Paragraph #2 -- Answer the question, "What have you learned about yourself as a student/writer this year?"
Paragraph #3 -- Answer the question, "What did you like or not like in the class?  What worked well for you and what didn't?"
Extra Credit -- Draw a picture of anything that will remind me of the class or of you!

We closed out the Grammar section with a "Final Exam."  We've done a lot of talking about sentence construction this semester, so most of the test was to see if they can build their own sentences from scratch.  If you were absent from class, I'm attaching the exam, and it can be done and brought to class. 

And then -- the Poetry Jam!  I look forward to this all year long.  Some students love poetry, some tolerate it, and a few really don't like it; I've found that even those who don't like poetry are great sports.  If you haven't heard about the logistics of the "jam," the students present their poems as teams with the other teams scoring them using a rubric.  I plug those  numbers into my spread sheet and average the scores. (The scores listed below are averaged from the scores of the judging teams and for the number of players in each team.)  Next week, the top two teams will compete, and I have something for the top scoring students, too.

The scores for the Poetry Jam were pretty close.  Teams 4 and 5 should come prepared for Round 2 of the Poetry Jam.
Team 1 -- 8.05
Team 2 -- 7.525
Team 3 -- 8.375
Team 4 -- 8.58

Our top scoring students were Corrie, Selah, Stevan, Joseph, Jacob, and Emma.  They should come prepared to recite something that I will give them.

Next Week:
Poetry Jam, Round 2
Final Exam (a.k.a. a Jeopardy game)
Reflection Papers
Note:  All homework should be handed in by May 10.

Links for This Week
Class Notes

Have a great weekend!
Mrs. Prichard

Final Grammar Exam

Final Grammar Exam

  1. Write a N-LV-N sentence.
  2. Write a N-LV-Adj sentence.
  3. Write a sentence with 3 prepositional phrases
  4. Write a compound sentence.  Label the subjects and the verbs.  Circle the coordinating conjunction.
  5. Write a complex sentence.  Label the subjects and verbs in the independent and dependent clauses. Circle the subordinating conjunction.
  6. Write a sentence with exactly 5 errors.
  7. Correct #6.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Writing 1 Class Notes -- Week 13 (April 26)


We might be winding down the semester, but we're still going strong and covered a lot of information today.

Our Quick Write prompt today was inspired by the fact that today was National Poem in your Pocket Day. I heard a few groans and grumblings, but they were good sports and wrote a bit of poetry.  I wrote a short diamante, which is a 7-line shape poem.  You can see some examples on this poetry site.  I look forward to reading their poems.

Our Words of the Day were connected to writing.  The following words of Greek origin are considered modes of persuasion and are also referred to as the three artistic proofs. (More explanations of these terms at this site.)
Ethos -- Greek, "nature, disposition" -- In terms of writing and logic, ethos refers to the credibility and authority of the person with the message, in other words, the ethical nature of a person. a person can express his ethos by choosing language and topics appropriate to the audience.  
Pathos -- Greek, "suffering, grief" -- In terms of writing and logic, pathos refers to an emotional appeal.  This can be done by using meaningful language emotional tone, and emotion-evolving examples.
Logos -- Greek, "word, reason" -- In terms of writing and logic, logos refers to an appeal to logic and reason.  This can be done by including facts, statistics, analogies, and citations by authorities and experts.

I did a quick check in about homework and encouraged students to check My GradeBook if they have questions about missing homework.  Here's a link for instructions for accessing the site.

Our final essay for the year is an Essay Re-Write.  This is a chance for students to rework one of their earlier essays.  I suggested to them that they choose an essay they 1) got a low grade on; 2) felt they could do better on or wanted to improve; or 3) that they enjoyed writing and want to add more.  As they are rewriting, they should look at their essays from a sentence and word choice level but also from a content consideration.  The Essay Re-Write is due next week, and students also need to hand in the original final draft of the essay they are rewriting.

For the Grammar part of our class, we had a quick quiz to check for understanding of simple, compound, and complex sentences.  We went through each sentence to identify the subjects, verbs, conjunctions, prepositional phrases, etc.  Using these sentences, I felt that some of the aspects of sentence construction and patterns were beginning to really click for most of the students.

For our Poetry discussion at the end of the class, we discussed two of the poems that were assigned for this week.  We read aloud "She Walks in Beauty" by Lord Byron and "To My Dear Loving Husband" by Anne Bradstreet.  We talked about how the first poem, while it mentions the beauty in looks and character of someone, it was not necessarily a love poem.  In fact, one student mentioned that it could even be written about a favorite dog.  On the other hand, the Bradstreet poem is one of the sweetest poems written by a wife to her husband.

We start our Poetry Jam next week, so students should bring 2 poems that they are ready to recite in class.  A reminder:  students will get extra points for original poems and for poems that are memorized.  Next week we will divide into teams, and I will explain the  scoring.

Assignments for Next Week:
-- Prepare 2 poems for the poetry jam
-- Essay Re-Write
-- Any old homework that is not overdue

Links for this week:
Class Notes 

Have a great weekend.  
Mrs. Prichard