Creativity is such a precious and personal part of student writing. In systems that demand such writing get grades, how do we approach this tricky dilemma? Is it possible to actually grade creativity?
This post is dedicated to a very good friend of mine (actually a friend since childhood!) who is a teacher of English in Australia's public school system. He actually reads this blog from time to time, which flatters me beyond belief.
This teacher friend of mine contacted me this morning looking for ideas about how to effectively grade the creative writing efforts of his students. His main dilemma (and one I and I'm sure many other teachers have faced) is how to effectively and fairly grade creative writing.
It really got me thinking.
My quick response was to send him the following file, which is the general evaluation notes and rubrics I recommend to users of my Boost! Writing series, published with Pearson Longman:
The benefits of that general approach are that the topic development and skill application sections of the rubric can be adapted and applied by teachers to cater to almost any style of writing and/or particular skills taught or sought as part of that style, while the other sections of the rubric still cater to the general need for writing mechanics, good language use, etc. There is also a specific part of the rubric which focuses on students' overall efforts and preparation, which I think are essential aspects for young writers.
However, I still feel this evaluation guide falls short of the most effective way to respond to and grade students' creative writing efforts.
For one, I really believe (and this should be self-evident, I'm sure many readers of this would say) that any sort of writing is best evaluated in terms of "affect on reader." We write to be read, after all, and it is how people "feel" and respond to creative writing that really matters the most.
Based on that, I would probably look to divide my grading rubric into two sections:
1. (Completed by teacher) - General grade out of 10 for things like mechanics, language use, cohesion, etc.
2. (Completed by readers) - An average of all readers' responses to the writing converted into a score out of 10. By this I mean I would have several other students in the class read the writing and give it a score out of 10 based on how effective they felt it was and how much they enjoyed reading it. I would then calculate an average of all those scores.
It's not perfect, but it does bring peers and real "readers" into the picture, and emphasizes the need for writers to consider a potential audience for their writing. It may well have as many risks as bonuses, especially considering how sensitive teenage students are to their peers (and how cruel some teens can be to each other!). There is also the risk that writing for an audience - especially an audience of peers in the very same room - could very well inhibit natural and free-flowing creative writing efforts.
So personally I'm a little stumped.
Anyone out there got any ideas about how to effectively evaluate creative writing efforts?
My teacher friend and I would love to hear from you!
Image at top of post used with permission: