An experiment in varied written assessment.
I used to (and still do) believe that the repetition of writing structures is crucial in a student’s ability to improve and and internalize organized literary analysis. I often assign the same structured essay three to four times a semester. While the students may roll their eyes by the fourth time I have repeated the exact same essay writing instructions, they ultimately tend to show growth and improvement through the repetition. I wondered….
HOW CAN I KEEP THE REPETITION BUT ALSO ALLOW CHOICE AND AUTHENTICITY AND VARIETY IN WRITTEN ASSESSMENT????
Well, through discussions with my colleagues in the literature department, I came up with a two-pronged plan: 1. Repeat the analytical structure in small paragraph assignments throughout the semester and 2: Vary the final written assessments to provide increased options for creativity and voice.
The plan for the semester looks like this.
Project 1: Write the missing scene from Novel 1: Students will need to understand theme, characterization, plot, and the central messages of the text. Students will provide an analysis addendum in order to show how their scene demonstrates an analysis of these structures.
Project 2: In project 2 we are looking at the symbolic nature of the novel, The Kite Runner. Here I am providing the students with a creative or analytical choice. The secret is that the creative choice is STILL ANALYTICAL! Here are the two options.
Option A: Construct a new symbol and write an addendum to The Kite Runner three years later. (This will still show the understanding of symbolism, theme, characterization, and plot with a creative addendum)
Option B: Five paragraph literary analysis essay about symbolism and theme. This structure will allow for increased personal voice and use of first person reflections and thoughts in the introduction and conclusion. (Note: We have been looking at this style of writing in the book Beyond Literary Analysis by Allison Marchetti)
Project 3 is a combo approach for Edwidge Danticat’s novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory.
Three Body Paragraph analytical writing and three page double spaced dialogue. The idea here is to marry the consistent analytical paragraphs with a creative dialogue approach. This assignment will be differentiated so that some students will only need to do one or the other if they need to hone their skills or their IEP suggests that they will be more successful sticking to one style of writing.
Project 4: They will re-write the ending to a short story by one of the author’s they have analyzing. They will write in the style and voice of the author and keep the characterization the same.
So this is a lot! But I am hopeful. I think that the building blocks of analysis can be taught in the short repeatable analytical paragraphs and the voice, choice, and authenticity can be found in the longer assessments at the end of the units.
This is an experiment. It could have disastrous results but I am hopeful for an explosion of creativity and authenticity in the midst of rigorous and helpful English instruction.