Dear Dr. D',
What do I tell my department when they would like to change the ratios?
It’s easy for teachers to want to customize the ratios for specific assignments, but please do not do that because it negatively affects the outcome and confuses the students. Trust me on this. Instead, make your intentions clear about the assignment clear by giving the kids clear expectations and assigning value to those expectations. For example,
for an assignment with a (1:2+) or a (2+:1 ) ratio,
Send the students a clear message about your expectations regarding the number of sentences – something like this --
- 2 simple sentences = highest score is a C
- 3 simple sentences = highest score is a B
- 4 or more simple sentences = highest score is an A
More importantly, when they learn “types of sentences,” provide a scoring guide that assesses their learning of sentence types:
- Simple only sentences = highest score is a C
- A combination of 2 or more simple, compound, or complex sentences = highest score is a B
- A combination of 1 or more simple, compound, or complex sentence combined with 1 or more compound-complex sentences = highest score is an A
Finally, adding “chunks” is also a way to “get more” from those noggins . . .
Of course, the writing scores are also contingent on the content of their sentences, not simply the number or the types of sentences, and that’s why you stipulate “highest score.” But the “types of sentences” option truly increases the sophistication of the writing, even without weaving.
In English Language Arts (ELA) classes, teach the sentence types to the class as a whole and make the above grading stipulations as a formative assessment. The “Shaping Sheet” is the great organizer to grade for “types,” provide one-on-one conferences for relearning, and for demonstrating student models of great sentences before they go to their final drafts. Then, after they have practiced with “types,” add the weaving technique for those individual students who are ready. This works well!