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Teacher to Teacher: Getting to Know Our Students

By Lynne R. Dorfman

When we examine the important, long-lasting effects of formative assessments in writing workshop, we discover that they deepen student writers’ understanding of why and how writing is a valuable tool they will use throughout their lives. Formative assessment helps students understand that writing is a means to achieve goals and develop an understanding of themselves and others.

What can teachers do in the beginning of the year to get to know their students right away and help them make good decisions about their students’ instructional needs? Interest surveys and inventories help students develop a writer’s identity, to consciously declare, “I am a writer.” Surveys, autobiographical sketches, and time lines can help the student and teacher discover more about attitudes, interests, motivation, and self-concept, which all contribute to students’ successes or failures. These formative assessment measures may be the most important things we can do to foster student engagement in our writing workshops and across the day. Read more