My eleventh grade IB students just wrote their final assessment for first semester, a 1500 word essay based on a prompt that required them to find a link between two of the texts we read this semester. We've been hammering away at the skills they need to do well in the final IB assessments next year, and this was the first "practice" exam they did with me. There was some success...and there was some not-so-great work. Luckily, we get to continue together next semester, while the regular academic classes start anew, and these essays give me a good look at the work that still needs to be done - and an opportunity to give them some descriptive formative feedback.
I make a lot of notes to myself when I mark these essays, notes that help guide me for the rest of the year. They let me know what we can move on from and what skills need more work. It was very clear that my students had the structure of the essay down, but their discussion of literary features and their effect (a big component of IB English) was pretty weak.
When I gave back their papers, I projected a "notes to self" image on the overhead screen. I asked them to read over my comments and record what they did well, as well as what they need to work on. Then, I had them choose a paragraph from their essays to redo. They filled out the organizer on the left with their thesis and topic sentence, as well as point form notes from the paragraph they wanted to rewrite. Most importantly, they copied my feedback. I asked them to do a rewrite using this sheet, not the original paragraph, because when students have the original, they are much more likely to try to just change a few words here and there. I wanted them to start from scratch, using the feedback I gave them, in the hopes that they can do a better job.
Usually, when we give back essays with a summative mark, that's the end of the learning. We'd love to think that all of our students hang on our every word of advice, internalizing all the feedback so as to improve for next time. Not quite. Most look at the mark only, and shove the paper into the bowels of their lockers or binders, never to be seen again. When we ask them to do something immediate with the feedback, as I'm doing this time, there's a much greater chance they will use it to improve their writing. I'm certainly hoping so anyway!
Second semester starts next Wednesday, and I'm already making plans for focusing on the skills the IB's are lacking. Week one is going to be a "Lit Feature Blitz" so we can begin the work we need to do in that area. What a party that will be. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.