Writing Benchmarks as a Revision Opportunity

Every quarter, my school district requires students to take a Writing Benchmark. The district provides a writing prompt that teachers score using a common writing rubric.

As a teacher focused on improving student writing, I view the Benchmark as more than a one-time event. To ask students to interrupt learning for an assessment that will not be used again is a waste of their time and effort. Instead, the Writing Benchmark should include research, rough draft, self-evaluation, teacher feedback, student revision, and a final self-evaluation.

Using technology can be somewhat confusing for students. As such, I combine handwritten notes with online sources and Google Classroom. Students take handwritten notes while they read the online sources. Then they type their rough draft argumentative essays. (See #20 Winter Benchmark Essay). As students write, they have a hard copy of the rubric in hand.

At the end of a timed session, students submit assignment #20. In the next class session, students open the same document as View-only and complete a printed version of #021 Student Checklist for Argumentative Writing Rubric. No one is allowed to make any changes at this time. This checklist is a simplified version of the district's common writing rubric.

Next students open  #21 Self-Evaluation for Winter Benchmark via Google Classroom. This form was created by Alice Keeler. I changed the rubric descriptions and deleted the distracting default scores. Using the handwritten notes, students give themselves a 4, 3, 2, 1, or 0 score for each category.

Now it is my turn to work hard. Over the weekend, I will use Goobric and Doctopus to score each student's essay. Until I meet Jake Read at the Temecula GAFE Summit, I had thought Goobric and Doctopus were cumbersome. Within 5 minutes of his presentation, Jake won me over. The process is so simple that I have time to give more feedback. Feedback is far more valuable than a number.

Clicking on the blue submit button advances the screen to the next student, and the rubric score is automatically entered into Google Sheets.

Of course, the students are not done with their writing requirement. The scores that are submitted to the district are a reflection of my teaching ability, not their writing ability. The student's writing ability will be judged the following week after they revise their argumentative essays using the following procedures: 
  1. Read essays out loud. 
    • Many students like to use Snagit to record themselves reading the essay. 
    • When they listen to their essay, students revise wherever they stumble.
    • Yes, audio recording does work with 36 students in the room.
  2. Share essay as "Can comment" with elbow partner.
    • Errors are always easier to find when reading a partner's essay.
    • I use the Chrome 2-minute timer during this activity. Students take turns reading the essays out loud for 2-minutes. A revision should be made wherever a student stumbles.
    • Students can Accept or Decline their partner's suggestions.
  3. Read essays silently and make changes as necessary.
  4. Copy/paste writing into Hemingwayapp.com
    • Minimize or eliminate the yellow sentences.
    • Minimize or eliminate the red sentences.
  5. Use the free version of Grammarly installed on each student's Chrome account. Scroll down Hemingway app and click on the icon.
    • Fix all Critical Errors.
    • Fix as many Advanced Issues as possible. The number of Advanced Issues should decrease.
The true value with Goobric and Doctopus, however, is the next step. The system records the number of times a student makes changes. Should a student not make any changes, then I have no need to re-read the essay. This sounds harsh, but my weakness is doing the work for the students. Students need to struggle in order to learn.

As the revision number increases, I have numerical proof that students are revising. What could be better than that evidence? How about students are taking control of revising their essays? How about students valuing peer editing?

At the end of the week, students will self-assess again. They should see an evolution of their writing that makes them proud.

My hope is that students to value revision. Ultimately, I want students to become proud of hard work, failure, and perseverance. Required District Writing Benchmarks can be and should be a valuable writing experience.


  1. This sounds like an awesome plan! Just give it a try everyone. After the initial setup, the payoff is huge and saves you a lot of time on the data aggregation side of things.

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