Magazine article Practical Literacy

Using a Writing Analysis Tool to Monitor Student Progress and Focus Teaching Decisions

Magazine article Practical Literacy

Using a Writing Analysis Tool to Monitor Student Progress and Focus Teaching Decisions

Article excerpt


The complexity of writing means that the process can be difficult for young students while teachers are often challenged to provide explicit focused teaching that responds to integrated aspects of early writing. Indeed, effective teaching needs to focus on the content and process of writing, developing students' control over both the authorial (text structure, sentence structure and vocabulary) and editorial dimensions (spelling, punctuation and handwriting) of writing. The Writing Analysis Tool, discussed in this article, was based on research carried out by the authors in Australian schools and designed with the support of many teachers working with young writers. The tool allows for the assessment of writing. It can be used to map students' achievements at particular points in time, identify focus areas for teaching and appropriate learning goals, and to monitor progress. Some teachers have likened the tool to a running record for writing, providing immediate multi-factor data to inform teaching. The tool can also be used to profile and record students' progress, providing information that is helpful when preparing for parent teacher interviews and report writing. The Writing Analysis Tool is electronic and free to all teachers (see below for the link).

The Writing Analysis Tool

While the tool was developed using samples of work from Year 1 classrooms, a review of the tool will demonstrate that the range of samples crosses from those in the very early stages of writing more often associated with the Foundation Year to those who may be in Year 2 or 3 classrooms. To open the Analysis Tool copy the following URL into your browser (either Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome): The tool has six columns, three of which specifically pertain to the authorial dimensions of writing (text structure, sentence structure/grammar, vocabulary) and three of which relate to the editorial or secretarial dimensions (spelling, punctuation and handwriting). The level of attainment is displayed on a continuum with six specific descriptors for each dimension. These descriptors were created based on an analysis of the writing samples collected for the study, thus children's own writing rather than any pre-determined expectation, continuum or curriculum guided the development of the attainment levels. The tool is not connected to the Australian Curriculum or any other syllabus or curriculum (see Mackenzie, Scull, & Munsie, 2013 for explanation of the tool development process). That said, the tool could be used in parallel with school, state and national curriculum frameworks.

By keeping the tool non-curriculum specific, we hope that it will be useful to a wide range of teachers who work across different systems with different curricula. For each descriptor in the electronic tool we have provided a writing sample that is illustrative of the dimension and attainment level.

How to use the tool

There are a number of different ways that teachers can use the tool. We have identified four:

* The first pertains to the analysis of writing of a specific student. These data can be used to map a student's growth across an identified period of time (for example, a term, semester or a year). Teachers can decide how frequently to analyse the samples of individual students but this will most probably be determined by the needs of particular students. For example, it is likely that the progress of students who are experiencing difficulties with writing will need to be monitored more closely than those who are making good progress.

* The second way to use the tool is to look across samples from a number of students with a focus on a particular dimension (for example, vocabulary) to consider progress in one area of writing. By mapping the attainment levels of students, and then looking ahead at the descriptors that follow, decisions regarding grouping and teaching can be supported. …

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