Assessing Writing During Distance Learning

As I work with teachers around the country, I continue to be in awe of the work that you are doing! While I am very grateful that I am not navigating the demands of distance, hybrid, and face to face but socially distant learning, I have spent considerable time thinking about how I might have modified different aspects of my practice to accommodate these challenges.  

While I previously shared some ideas about using graphic organizers for assessing interpretive reading, I really struggled on how I might have assessed presentational writing.  I have always had students do their writing assessments in class, so that I could be confident that the work I was evaluating reflected their actual level of proficiency.  Based on the assessment and my thinking at the time, I sometimes allowed access to paper dictionaries, online dictionaries, drafts, nothing but their brain cells, etc.

Distance learning, of course, presents a whole new set of challenges as we cannot physically prevent students from using Google Translate. While I agree with others that there is an appropriate time and place for using GT, when I was teaching I wanted to avoid having students write entire paragraphs in English and then plug them into any translation program. Like all of you, I could easily identify when students had done so, but this realization just created additional obstacles. Firstly, I preferred that my students’ grades reflect their proficiency rather than their behavior, so I needed to provide an alternate assessment  rather than simply give them a zero.  Secondly, the disciplinary measures that I was sometimes required to take did little to improve my relationships with students who already lacked the confidence to do the work as directed.  

As a result of these challenges, I decided to turn my attention to how I might make it more difficult, rather than less difficult, to complete an assignment using translation software. Here’s a link to a Google Presentation with the steps I came up with.

  1. On Slide 1 the students brainstorm the vocabulary they will use to complete the task (a message about a typical day in their life.) While they might use a translation program for this step, I am somewhat confident they will have made these words their own by the time they complete the assessment.
  2. On Slide 2 the students write simple sentences about their day using the vocabulary they have selected.
  3. On Slide 3 the students rewrite (or copy/paste) their simple sentence but add additional details.
  4. On Slide 4 they organize their sentences, add transitions and proofread.
  5. On Slide 5, they submit the final draft.

It is my hope that by following these steps, the students will be much less likely to resort to Google Translate. In fact, I’m not even sure what that would look like.  In addition, I think this writing process could lead to increased proficiency in presentational writing even for students who are learning in a classroom environment.  

I’d love to hear back from any of you who use a similar process. I have so much to learn from you that are doing the work!

4 thoughts on “Assessing Writing During Distance Learning

  1. Boyo Diop

    I love the idea about using google slides to guide students in the writing process. I have done something similar using google docs! Students rely mainly on their notes, and occasionally on a dictionary
    Here is an example:

    Activities with the project (daily grades):
    1ière étape: ¨Graphic organizer¨-Select 10 reflexives verbs, and fill out a graphic organizer
    2ème étape: phrases -Write 10 sentences using the verbs from your graphic organizer.
    3ème étape: paragraphe- Write a paragraph using expression to relate series of events
    4ème étape: produit final (major grade)

    Grading the project: (see rubric)

  2. Agnes Aichholzer

    Bonjour! Thank you so much for this post! (And everything you have done for us! I have happily purchased your work fro TpT.) And as it so happens, we are doing reflexive verbs in French 2 right now. We are fully remote right now. My question: If I plan for the students to do a slide a day, among other activities, of course, should I provide the entire slide deck at once, or one slide a day? I guess it’s whatever feels right, but I’m wondering what you might do? Merci!


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