One of the most successful approaches that I have taken over the last couple of years is to award students for their writing successes. The fourth and fifth grade students participate in practice prompts, offered by NNWP and found on WritingFix (click here to access that page), throughout the school year. Students that achieve a score of 12.0 – 15.5 receive the Silver Pen Award (pictured below) and students that achieve a score of 16.0 – 20.0 receive the Gold Pen Award. They also receive the award for the official Nevada State Assessment. The scoring is based on the Nevada Analytical Scoring Rubric. The teachers work in collaboration with the NNWP for scoring of the writing pieces. The scorers do not know what grade the students are currently in; the students are simply scored according the Nevada State Writing Rubric.
For Gold and Silver Pen Awards, the student’s scored writing piece is mounted on the award and laminated.
The awards have been extremely successful because it offers many benefits to the students and staff. It offers an opportunity to recognize the students for their writing accomplishments. The scoring also allows the students and teachers to focus and specific areas of writing that need improvement. I have used the results of the scoring to conduct individual conferences which the students love. It is all about their writing and when it is all about the individual, it makes them extremely satisfied. We discuss the strengths of their writing and the areas they need to work on, as well as providing them with strategies to accomplish their goal. Students that do not pass the practice prompts and state writing assessment with a score of 12.0+ are also celebrated. They received awards and recognition for the growth they have made.
Picture below is a picture of Preston and his family celebrating his writing accomplishments at the school’s Awards and Exploration Night. Preston received the Robert Mitchell Gold Pen Award for passing the 5 th grade writing assessment with a score of 17.5. Way to go Preston! In addition, Preston received two Silver Pen Awards for scoring 12.0 on two practice prompts.
Preston is not the only student to receive Gold and Silver Pen Awards. The intermediate hallway is littered with Silver Pen Awards from each of the classes. The students’ awards are displayed for the entire year. At the end of the year, the students take their awards home to share with their families. The family of another Silver Pen Award recipient commented, “It makes me so proud to walk down the hall and see my son’s awards on the wall. His award is there for me to see every time I come to pick him up.” The awards ceremonies are held in the evening for families and again the next day for the students that were unable to attend the evening ceremony. Another family interjected, “I appreciate that the events are in the evening. If they weren’t, I would never be able to see my little girl receive an award. It means so much to all of us.”