I created these two writing prompts as a formative assessment during a concept-based unit about identity. My 8th graders read several short memoirs in the textbook or excerpts from longer memoirs in order to build the concept of identity and practice analyzing how a text makes "connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events" (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.3). Students read “My First Free Summer” by Julia Alvarez and “Going Where I’m Coming From” by Naomi Shihab Nye. Both of these memoirs are in the McDougal Littell 8th grade Literature textbook (2008; green cover). While reading the texts, students selected two examples of text evidence and wrote commentary that supported both writing prompts. For the formative assessment, students selected one of the two writing prompts to answer in writing. I collected the formative assessment and provided descriptive feedback to students that indicated whether their literary analysis paragraph met the criteria for "exceeds," "proficient," "developing," or "beginning." Students understood the criteria before writing a response, and the criteria for the formative assessment was the same as the criteria for the summative assessment. Students were flexibly grouped based on their performance on the formative assessment and engaged in additional practice if needed to improve their literary analysis paragraph. Before revising their paragraphs, students analyzed examples of student work that demonstrated "proficiency" or "exceeding proficiency." Students moved on to more challenging tasks if they earned a "proficient" or "exceeds" while students at the "developing" or beginning" level engaged in more practice and made revisions to their writing. This common formative assessment was used by the other two 8th grade Literacy teachers at my school. Even though it was during the first unit of the school year, all three of us were very impressed with the quality writing that students produced for this writing prompt. Students engaged in three cycles of similar formative assessment in order to practice the skills they needed to demonstrate on a similar writing prompt for the summative assessment.
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