Pure Literacy

3 Predictable and Avoidable Pitfalls When Analyzing Student Writing

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Hi Everyone!

Recently, I've spent two weeks in the Cambrian Union School District facilitating Norming Meetings, and leading teachers in analyzing information writing from students in grades K-6. Tucked into another week in March, I provided information writing demonstration lessons in K-4 classrooms in the Saratoga Union School District. It's been a rewarding experience to spend time with these amazing teachers and incredible students. The work that is taking place in both these school districts to advance student writers is truly remarkable, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.

While leading grade level norming meetings, to look at student writing performance assessments closely using the rubrics from Writing Pathways,  I was struck by the dedication, determination, and professionalism of the teachers. However, it occurred to me that norming meetings can also be a time when predictable problems are encountered. For those of you who have taken part in, or led, a writing scoring calibration I am sure you'll agree  some predictable pitfalls arise when looking at student work in the company of colleagues.

3 Predictable And Avoidable Pitfalls When Analyzing Student Writing

3 Predictable & Avoidable Pitfalls When Analyzing Student Writing

  • Some teachers allow their own personal bias surrounding the student and/or the conditions surrounding the assessment to cloud their objectivity.
    • Solution: Teachers score papers from other classrooms.


  • Some teachers fall back to past practice of product-driven "scores" concerning themselves with where the student’s piece fell on the proficiency band. Instead, the aim is for teachers to think about where their students are in relation to the grade level and on the learning progression from Writing Pathways.
    • Solution: analyzing the student writing samples to inform next instructional steps by aggregating student data to differentiate small group and individual instruction. Teachers note the most urgent teaching point for individual students to inform instructional next steps.
    • *One way we did this, data collected was recorded on a rubric aligned sticky note that could be transferred from the student's paper to an assessment binder or conferring notebook. 


  • Some teachers spend lots of time over-analyzing each component of the rubric which translates into spending lots of time over-analyzing and debating student work. Which can lead to less time actually scoring student work. 
    • Solution:  As a group, talk-over evidence found in the student’s writing to come to a consensus about how the student’s work ranks on the learning progression.  

Engaging in this practice helps teachers figure out how to teach students in whole class mini lessons, as well as, setting individual and small group conferring teaching targets that will move students incrementally forward as writers by providing achievable and actionable steps. Teachers loved using the Pure Literacy rubric aligned sticky-note to help them keep track of their data points to guide them in their teaching points for conferring.

Now this week in teacher tips, I wanted to talk about some fantastic past, present and future events going on in the world of Pure Literacy. This weekend only (Friday - Monday) I'm having a Spring Sale in my TpT store! Everything is 20%!!!

Today is the last day of the sale so there's still time to hop to it if you were eyeing something in the store and take advantage of that 20%!

Lastly,  after receiving some fabulous feedback on my blog post The Top 12 Glossary Terms for Literacy Models as well as some more in-depth questions on the topic I've decided to run a Writing Workshop Glossary Terms Series for Teacher Tips in April! So, every Sunday for the month of April, I'll have a new post in the series expanding on the last. I'll be discussing terms and touching on topic such as essential features of Writing Workshop, instructional strategies,  mini lessons and more!




I'm so excited to bring you this series and I'm hard at work putting the finishing touches on each post BUT I have saved room to answer all of your questions! So, I invite you all to fill out the Ask Anything form in the sidebar with all of your questions, suggestions and thoughts for the series OR write in the comments section below! I will be answering all of these questions in the April series and I would really really love to hear from you!

Happy Reading!