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How To: Adjust Your Teaching Styles to Students' Learning Styles
How To: Develop as a Professional
How To: Implement Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment

Using Self-Assessment in the Middle School Classroom Lisa Kihn

Giving your students a chance to evaluate their own work gives you a greater understanding of what your students have learned. I give my students lots of opportunities to give me feedback on their learning. I teach them to spend quality time on these assessments and I often conference with students about what they have written to give them a further chance to explore their thinking. I always conference with students if I feel there is a discrepancy between what they believe they have accomplished and what I think they have accomplished. After some practice, I have found that students are really able to identify their strengths and weaknesses on a given assignment.


In a personal narrative/realistic fiction writing unit I teach these five elements of writing. The students know that they will be learning about these concepts and it is my goal that every student work toward the following:

  1. Use your own experience as a starting place for writing a personal narrative.
  2. "Show" rather than "tell" in your writing piece.
  3. Use realistic dialogue.
  4. Edit carefully to be sure there are no grammar, punctuation or spelling mistakes.
  5. Take a risk; try something different.

I spend several weeks teaching these important concepts. I use many examples from literature and ask students to share frequently. The students are always aware of the goals for this unit. About a week before the due date, I hand out the self-evaluation form. They are to use it to guide them when revising and editing their final drafts. On the day their final draft is due, I give students most of a class period to fill out this evaluation. I use it in place of a formal test and ask students to spend all the time they need to complete it. They know that I am very interested in finding out what they have learned.

I ask students to think critically about their writing and rank themselves in relation to each goal, from 1 to 5. A perfect score of five means that the student did his/her personal best and went "above and beyond" in some way. A three means the goal was accomplished to the student's satisfaction and a one means it was not accomplished. Students may also use a score of four and two to describe their progress. For each score they choose, they must describe their rationale in detail and give examples.

Sample Self-Assessment for a personal narrative/realistic fiction unit.

  1. Is this story based on personal experience? Describe.
  2. Describe examples of how you used the concept of "showing and not telling" in your story. How did this allow your story to come alive?
  3. Give examples of how you used realistic dialogue in your story. How did this enhance your story?
  4. What process did you use to edit your work?
  5. How did you take a risk with this story?

I carefully read these evaluations and also assign points. This is a very useful assessment tool for students. It gives them far more information about their writing than a simple grade. It also reveals areas where I may need to reteach and clues me in to problems individual students may be experiencing.


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