I read for ETS on Tuesday,. Wednesday and Thursday this week. They made it a very comfortable place to work. Since I was reading English teacher's assignments from all over the country and their student's writings, I took this once in a lifetime opportunity to take notes.

I. First the Rubric (criteria) for grading.

A. We had to pick one of nine types of writing.

1. Personal Narrative

2. Creative Narrative/Writing

3. Essay/Report

4. Persuasive Essay/Report

5. Letter

6. Persuasive Letter

7. Poem (song lyrics, haiku etc)

8. Skill Sheet (closed response such as a list)

9. Other

B. Piece Shows evidence of

1. Prewriting (clustering, listing, outline, etc., attached)

2. Drafting

3. Written on a computer

4. Hand Written Only

Couple of notes. I was amazed, and others stated it as well, how much higher we naturally gave the work written on a computer. We had several pieces that appeared to have been copied from other works. Work using prewriting and drafting were rarely involved in this plagiarism.

C. Quality of Writing

4. Elaboration, Sustained organization and clear development are used to lead a reader through the piece. Details are used to expand or connect ideas. Precise word choice and language use enhance the presentation. Few errors are evident. [WOW! Not necessary. Just the ability to write clearly and cleanly.]

3. There is a clear progression of events or information. The writing is focused and developed. Some details are used. Language is generally fluent. Some errors are evident.

2. Presentation, development and organization may be uneven in places OR may be mostly underdeveloped with few details. Errors in language use may interfere with understanding.

1. Ideas are not developed. The organization is difficult to follow. Piece may be incoherent in places. Errors permeate the piece and make it difficult to understand.

N. Not enough evidence to judge...

I. Illegible

B. Blank

When we arrived there were four pieces of paper on wall with these comments. Later they were taken off the wall.

4. Clear Writing

Good vocabulary


Generally solid

3. Adequate

Some detail

Consistency of ideas

Could have simple but clear sentence structure

2. Substandard



Difficult to follow

Not passing but almost

1. Dead in the water

One point for effort

Weak, poorly communicates ideas

Well below expectations.

I liked these four quick and dirty explanations of the four categories but found it hard to apply them to the actual rubric.

II. Forms of writing.

One of our suggestions at the end of the three day grading was a need for the students to write more. As an English teacher, My Principal Richard, asked me to have my students write 200 words a week. This is a tremendous grading load, but is worth it in improved student writing skills.

Advice from relatives

"As I..." begins this narrative

Best surprise I ever got...

Breaking down barriers

Changes: beginning of year, write on Five new changes at school

Compare and Contrast: books and short stories, endless possibilities

Conflict, complication, climax, resolution. Use these four points in your short story.

Controversial topic and pick a side.

Current Affairs: Write on (anything but) the Clinton scandal.

Describe Christmas to students in another country.

Eulogy: find character from a book you just completed and write an Eulogy.

Favorite pet

Finish the story....

Future career

Fly, If I could be a fly on the wall, what? when? where? would I like to be?

Geography: using all senses tell what place you would like to be.

Goals in life (broader than vocation)

Homophones, most of the problems in better writing was with spell checkers not catching the right spelling to the wrong word. Right/write? Make a list of words and have them write a story.

How far...

Hypothetical: Ann Frank's life as an adult after reading book.


to editor

persuasive (convince someone to do something, like change the dress code, open campus, student lockers.)

My broken bone

My first crush

Mystery story

Personification. If I was a tree.... If I was a lake... see fly

Poem (students wrote excellent poems for our reading)

about my father (interview, then write)

word poem about a word that doesn't exist (Source: Dr. Seuss' book Letters beyond Z)

based on book

Find something on the ground and write a poem

Political cartoons. Fun to grade. Require students to pick 12-20 political cartoons in newspaper and magazines and describe in 100? words. Requires advanced thinking skills.

Prewriting descriptions


Rewrite a book, story ending.

Senses (write a descriptive piece using the senses)

Strong emotion

Teacher dress up as a character (in History?) And students write about the person.

Three number sets: Character, Plot, Story (can't you see the three spinners?)

T.V. Commercials. Endless possibilities, compare/contrast, write one, etc.

Vocabulary: write a story using your spelling words.

What have you learned? (especially good at end of year) My students enjoy writing, " I have learned that .... " and they need to find 10 ways to finish this sentence. I usually give them about 10 examples of my own to get them started.

When were you treated unfairly? (Puts kids in negative, griping mood)

When were you lonely?

Write on a word.

Your name, write a essay on your name. I was almost angry that Alexandra couldn't figure out where her name came from, and the teacher gave her a good grade.

III. Last hour we made comments and suggestions.

A. Plagiarism rampant. How to avoid, especially in this Internet age, while getting a report?

Let students know your stand on Plagiarized work: you won't accept it!

Remember you and your students can get an "A" quality paper at http://www.schoolsucks.com

Use the Note card, outline, rough draft method.

Keep a writing folder of students work, if it dramatically improves on the term paper...

Have students write in the classroom.

Use peer evaluations (I personally would like to know a LOT more about this )

Parent responses to paper

Read papers in class.

B. Further suggestions:

Use "lenses" ask questions about subject

Instead of a "Report on the Civil War" ask for 10 letters from a solder on the field

If I was a fly on the wall (first person account of ....)

Define words

Use a "So what factor"

Anything that will keep the student from copying out of an encyclopedia, dictionary or www.

There is hope! One of the first papers I read was ready for Reader's Digest. It was about a girlfriend and her time in the hospital and how she died. It really moved me. John Steinbeck's Cannery Row is little more than a term paper about what you see out a window, expanded. Inspire your kids to write~!

There was much more in how we began to think as a group instead of grading as an individual. But that is another paper, which will probably not get written. The ETS, English Report card report will be out sometime "near Christmas of 1999" because of all the people that need to approve it before publication.