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Assessing Children’s Writing and Raising the BAR

How best to assess a child’s writing level has long been a source of debate. The 2014 National Curriculum for primary level English splits writing into three main categories:

  • Transcription (spelling and handwriting)
  • Composition (ideas and structure)
  • Vocabulary, Grammar and Punctuation

Within these three sections, the government then gives more detailed guidance for the year groups or key stages. When children reach Year 6, teachers then follow the Teacher Assessment Framework and assess each child according to one of three grades or standards:

  • WTS (Working Towards)
  • EXP (Expected Standard)
  • GDS (Greater Depth)

Many schools use these standards at the end of each academic year, using their own (or purchased) criteria which have been influenced by the National Curriculum guidance for each year group.

How we assess writing using our ‘Raising the BAR’ standards.

At Bright Light Education, we believe writing should be an enjoyable process. However, for many children, mastering spelling, handwriting, vocabulary, grammar, punctuation as well as forming ideas and structuring their piece of work properly, is no easy task. This is particularly the case for children with special educational needs or disabilities, such as dyslexia. We believe that being judged on all these criteria at once can cause a child to lack confidence in writing and take the pleasure of writing away from them.

This is why we have developed our own ‘Raising the BAR’ standards for writing. Whilst our levelling process has been influenced by the National Curriculum and TA Framework for Writing, we have removed the ‘Transcription’ element (as this can be assessed separately), and created a process which should motivate rather than discourage children. Additionally, we have added new criteria; criteria which encourage children to enjoy writing through storytelling. For example: can I use personification to describe the atmosphere; can I use Show Don’t Tell for developing the emotions of my characters; can I use hyperbole to develop humour or exaggeration in my writing?

We wholeheartedly believe that children should be taught the art of writing through storytelling and creative writing. Children should feel excited to write, to let their imaginations run wild and,at the same time, be taught a range of wonderful writing skills to make their writing captivating for their audience. Our ‘Raising the BAR’ standards assess children on what we feel are the important criteria for writing. Our criteria are separated into three categories:

  • Language
  • Skills
  • Structure

Each criteria has 7 strands, covering vocabulary, writing techniques, grammar, punctuation, composition and ideas). At the end, children are awarded one of three levels:

  • B = Budding (E.g. Budding Year 2)
  • A = Aspiring (E.g. Aspiring Year 2)
  • R = Rising (E.g. Rising Year 2)

We hope that these positively worded levels, together with more attainable and inspiring criteria, will successfully ignite children’s passion for writing.

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