Point-less: On the Value of a Mastery Approach to Writing Instruction

Sep 08, 2021 | Posted by Jennifer

Some instructors teaching with Structure and Style for Students have noticed something that appears to be missing from the checklists: the point values. While we do offer checklists with points as an optional free download, we do receive calls from teachers and parents who want to know why points are not on there to begin with. If you are also curious about this, read this blog post to learn more about why this is so. Let’s begin by examining some information for context, a piece written by Andrew Pudewa and published in 2008.

In his article “Marking and Grading,” Andrew Pudewa considers this question in detail: What is the most effective way to evaluate and encourage our students’ writing abilities? Examining the problem of perfectionism, the importance of teaching editing skills, the challenge of encouraging excellence, and the task of evaluating our students’ efforts, Andrew lays out a thoughtful thesis about how to achieve these lofty goals. One component of the overall approach is grading. He writes:

To be fair, if we are going to grade writing, we should really only give a grade based on one criterion: “Did the student do what he or she was asked to do, and meet all my requirements?” Therefore, in an ideal environment, the only two possible grades one could get on a writing assignment would be “A” (for Accepted) or “N”* (for Not Finished Yet).

Applying this philosophy and aligning it with “EZ+1,” teachers can create opportunities for ALL students to experience success using the checklist. Will each student write equally as well? No. But the checklist facilitates the ability for each student to work in a way such that an “A” is always within reach. This checklist allows students to get as close as possible to a clear-cut assignment because it removes much of the subjectiveness that accompanies writing assignments. The concreteness of the checklist encourages students to do their best. Students understand that if they complete the elements on the checklist, they get that coveted A. That’s powerful motivation!

But what if you want or need to assign points for assessment purposes? Many schools, hybrid schools, and co-ops expect a more traditional grading system. As was mentioned earlier, you will be able to access a PDF download for checklists that include point values with the Structure and Style for Students programs. To find this PDF, open up the Teacher’s Manual to the blue page near the front of the book. You will see the instructions on how to access the accompanying downloads, one of which will be the Reproducible Checklist with Points document.

If you are using classroom materials that don’t provide this download, you still have options. Premium members can utilize the Checklist Generator™ to create custom checklists with points assigned for your students. Taking only moments to complete, teachers can assemble their checklists with a minimum of fuss. Options are available for checklists with or without points. Customized and convenient, checklists make achieving that enviable “A” that much easier to achieve.

Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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