Craft Specific Actionable Present Levels Statements for Writing Updated 03/25/2019

UPDATED 03.25.19

When we introduced the Writing section of the Present Levels Wizard back in December, we really wanted to help teachers hone in on what their students should be working on and help them identify a logical starting point for their students to progress from. The challenge in doing that with writing is that teachers often lack objective criteria when assessing writing. What our Content Team has added to the Spelling and Sentence & Paragraph Composition sections of Writing are assessments that help teachers clearly score and communicate to students about their writing.

The Primary Spelling Inventory gives teachers objective insights into students’ word knowledge.

The Primary Spelling Inventory (PSI) is an assessment that is administered to students cold because the data gathered from student results gives teachers insight into word knowledge students have to bring to the tasks of reading and spelling. The download includes the word list with administration instructions and sample sentences. It also includes the PSI Feature Guide Matrix, which gives teachers insight into a student’s areas of need. Teachers can analyze the words by checking off the features spelled correctly that are listed in specific cells to the left of each word. For example, if a student spells “pet” as “pat”, they get a check in the initial P cell and the final T cell, but not for the short vowel. The correct and incorrect letters reveal a lot about where a student is.

The Sentence & Paragraph Composition Assessment objectively targets specific writing skills.

The Sentence & Paragraph Composition Assessment is an assessment that gives teachers and students specific criteria for success with regards to what should be included in sentences and paragraphs. The download includes the student writing sheet with detailed instructions and a student-friendly writing rubric. The rubric is focused on specific skills and offers feedback that clearly shows students what they should work on. For example, the third-grade assessment focuses on 4 main skills:

  • Introductory Sentence
  • Reasons/Details
  • Linking Words
  • Closing Sentence

The levels at which students displayed mastery of the skills are objectively defined and the rubric points out what they need to do in order to improve.

Our hope is that this addition helps teachers have a clearer picture of what writing mastery should look like. Read on to find out more about why we added the writing section to the Present Levels Wizard.


Original Post:

We are continuing to expand the Present Levels Wizard in Goalbook Toolkit so that teachers can accurately capture their students’ present levels in all subject areas. The latest area that we are proud to address is writing.

The Present Levels Wizard for Writing allows teachers to draft statements that include resources to guide them with how to assess and address the most foundational writing skills at the most rigorous levels.

This release is a beta preview that will be expanded further as we gather data from the teachers using it to inform their practice.

Writing is complex, which means gathering the right data for present levels is critical.

Distilling writing down to its fundamental elements can be challenging. Writing is a complex task that integrates cognitive and motor skills, reasoning and comprehension, confidence, and a growth mindset in order to produce quality product. This makes assessing writing and developing present levels a challenge for teachers because it requires them to pinpoint and assess specific areas of need. The writing section of the Present Levels Wizard helps teachers do just that.

The present levels statements are highly specific about what mastery looks like at specified levels. This is helpful for teachers because it removes the guesswork of whether or not students are actually mastering skills.

The initial release addresses these critical areas:

  • Letter Formation
  • Spelling
  • Capitalization
  • Punctuation
  • Organization of Ideas
  • Sentence and Paragraph Composition
  • Editing and Revising

These areas allow teachers to establish concrete baselines for writing so that they can construct strong and clear present levels statements.

A targeted approach to writing instruction is the only way that students will grow.

Observational and anecdotal data is not enough to inform present levels for writing. Special educators must intentionally focus on all of the potential barriers to writing that students are presented with. This means writing practice should always be geared toward developing and assessing specific skills. The sections identified in the Present Levels Wizard for Writing serve as lenses into what data teachers should gather in order to develop the most foundational writing skills.

The present levels statements include examples of the requisite skills that students need in order to display mastery at the specified level. These are concrete observable skills that teachers can teach and use to scaffold learning.

All too often, well-intentioned special educators will assign more writing with the notion that if students write more frequently, they are bound to improve. Sadly, the converse is true: if teachers assign practice without intentionality about the data they’re gathering, then students will reinforce bad habits and won’t build the skills they need to succeed.

Writing instruction must be intentional; our hope is that this new section of the Present Levels Wizard helps teachers hone in on what their students should be working on and helps them identify a logical starting point for their students to progress from.


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