Friday, July 13, 2012

Correcting Writing on the Cambridge ESOL Support Forum

In my last post, I brought up the issue of what colour pen teachers choose to use for correcting written work.

I've been away for a few days, but wanted to come back to the subject of correction.

When catching up on emails, I was reading through the Cambridge ESOL Teacher Support Ezine and after following a link, I ended up reading the contributions to the debate about how best to correct writing.

Forum Index » Solving your Problems
Subject:  Correcting Writing

Messages: 134 
Dear Colleague, I find teaching the essay, composition quite difficult, students do not seem to want to check their own compositions eagerly, they feel shy or uneasy, embarrassed with comments, do not want to evaluate their work. 

Do you have any hints or tips that can help encourage students to identify their writing errors?
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 02/12/2011 11:52:46

Looking through the replies to this request for suggestions for encouraging students to identify their writing errors, I felt that some very useful advice was given (see here)
For example: using a correction code; giving students model answers to help them see what is needed and how to organise the content; correcting essays with the student present and discussing the mistakes; highlighting typical mistakes that students make so that they are aware of them.  

And last but not least, the fact that good language should be highlighted and not just errors!

As you are probably aware, Cambridge ESOL has recently updated all its Handbooks for the exams.

In the handbooks for Cambridge English: Key, Preliminary, First, Advanced and Proficiency, you can find the Assessment Scales used by Writing Examiners when assessing the answers to the different Writing tasks.  

The same areas are assessed in all five exams:

Four subscales are used:  Content, Communicative Achievement, Organisation and Language.

Content focuses on how well the candidate has fulfilled the task, in other words if they have done what they were asked to do.
Communicative Achievement focuses on how appropriate the writing is for the task and whether the candidate has used the appropriate register.
Organisation focuses on the way the candidate puts together the piece of writing, in other words if it is logical and ordered.
Language focuses on vocabulary and grammar. This includes the range of language as well as how accurate it is.

Responses are marked on each subscale from 0 to 5.

In the Handbooks, model answers are given marks for each of these subscales. (I personally find that the fact the there is no longer one overall mark at the end of each sample makes the assessment very clear).
 Maybe one answer will contain very few mistakes and a wide range of language, but has omitted one of the content points.  Another sample answer may communicate the message but be full of spelling mistakes.

I find that making students aware of what the criteria for marking is helps tremendously.  Showing students that the skill of writing is much more than correct spelling, punctuation and grammar usually makes them think more about the message and content.  Demonstrating to them that if they use paragraphs and linkers and think about style and register, the message is clearer is an important step towards better writing skills.


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