Each day, my son enters school with a smile. My hope is that he returns home in the same great spirits. I am afraid with endless quest for data, this simple hope is too much to ask.
In addition to the countless other assessments my second grade son is asked to take, the latest really has me scratching my head. Each student (K and up) is being asked to “on demand” write for 45 minutes on a genre that has not been taught. Imagine 5 , 6 and 7 year olds being asked to start every writing unit demonstrating something they have never been taught? Then, these students will spend a month or more working in that genre. They will use the writing process to develop and publish amazing pieces of writing and each unit will culminate in a Writing Celebration. The celebration ends when they are asked the very next day to write another “on-demand” piece to demonstrate their growth in this genre. I find this practice to be redundant and unnecessary. The issue is further complicated on the following day when the cycle resets and they are asked to write another “on demand” piece without receiving a single day of instruction in the next genre. Here is how each unit will present itself:
- On demand writing without receiving any lessons in the genre. 45 mins
- Lessons are given in genre. 1-2 months
- Piece is published. 1 week
- On demand piece after receiving lessons. 45 minutes
- On demand piece in new genre without receiving any lesson in the genre. 45 minutes
What drives quality instruction during these writing units is the continual conferring that occurs between student and teacher as well as small group instruction to target any needs children may have. I do not see the value in adding beginning and end of unit “on-demand” pieces when our writing workshops are already structured to show student growth. A challenging part of teaching writing is getting students to love it and I fear that adding these many on-demand writing assignments will stymie that love for my son and his second grade friends.
Rather than demanding writing of 5, 6, and 7 year olds, we should be encouraging and inspiring them to write. Through a multiple year portfolio system, we can discuss and plan based on what our students can do instead of what they can’t.
On demand writing provides the same prompt for 5 year olds as 13 years olds (picture below). Clearly, not much thought went into this and there is no way this can be researched based. I hope somewhere along the way they realize that on demand writing is not supported by a single Common Core standard in the lower grades. This is test prep at its finest and writing at its worst.
My 45 minutes are up.
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