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Developing Writers: A Workshop for High School Teachers

Arbiter Activity

Determine your standards (logic, creativity, structure, etc.) when assessing student writing. Evaluate three essays using an analytic or holistic rubric and see how your standards compare with your peers.

When you assess or comment on student papers, what are the things that you look at? Do you concentrate on the logic of the ideas presented, the creativity with which they are presented, the structure of the writing, or a combination of many factors?

What do your students think about your methods? Have you seen their writing grow through your comments – or are they still making the same errors?

In this interactive, you will have a chance to look closely at the ways in which you assess student writing. To what do you pay the most attention? Are there other methods or emphases that you might incorporate into you evaluation repertoire? If completing this activity in a professional development group: How do your standards compare with those of your peers?

Directions

Tools
To help you in evaluating each essay, you can use the holistic rubric or the analytic rubric below.

Find out more about using these rubrics.

Step 1. Read essays

In this interactive activity, you will read and evaluate three analytical essays written by high school students.

Step 2. Evaluate essays

After you have looked closely at each essay and scored them using the rubric tools, you can rank them in the order of their effectiveness. If you are using this activity as a group exercise, compare how other teachers have ranked them.

Tool: Holistic Rubric

6  Literature is analyzed in a coherent and sophisticated manner; introduction leads skillfully to thesis statement; text references and other supporting evidence are apt and demonstrate great insight into the work; superior organization; sophisticated language choices (clear connections and smooth transitions; skillful conclusion); and precise usage and mechanics.

 Literature analysis is thorough; introduction leads to thesis; apt text references demonstrate understanding of the work; good organization; strong usage (body of essay flows smoothly through connecting ideas and transitions; clear conclusion) and mechanics.

4Literature analysis is adequate; introduces most of the context and orients reader to thesis; text references show adequate understanding of work; basic organization; inconsistent or imprecise usage (adequate connections and conclusion) and mechanics.

3Literature analysis is surface; reliance on generalizations or summaries as opposed to text references show limited understanding of the work; few text references; basic organization; inconsistent or imprecise usage and mechanics.

2Analysis of literature shows minimal understanding of work; incomplete thesis; confusing or illogical structure; few or no text references; essay lacks organization; weak usage (no sentence variety) and mechanics.

1   Analysis is brief and shows no comprehension of the work; no thesis; no text references; limited or unworkable organization; poor usage and mechanics.

Find out more about using this rubric.

Tool: Analytic Rubric

Analysis

5Strongly controlled thesis statement demonstrates strong insight into topic and clear understanding of the work; writing show synthesis of ideas, placing specifics in larger context, and other examples of higher level thinking skills.

4Controlled thesis statement demonstrates insight into topic and understanding of work; writing shows some examples of higher level thinking skills.

3Limited or confused thesis statement with limited support in writing; writing supports some of the arguments offered in support of the thesis

2Confused and poorly supported thesis statement shows limited understanding of the work; writing does not present specific ideas connected to the larger context or synthesis of thoughts.

1There is no thesis statement or thesis statement is irrelevant to text; writing shows no clear understanding of the work or its parts.

References and Evidence

5Provides ample, specific, and appropriate text references and other evidence that support thesis and follow the conventional form of documentation.

4Provides some specific and appropriate text references and other evidence that support thesis and follow the conventional form of documentation.

3Provides few text references and other evidence in support of thesis statement that may or may not follow the conventional form of documentation.

2Provides few text reference or other evidence; inconsistent use of conventional form of documentation

1Provides no text references or other supporting evidence

Organization and Development

5Provides superior organization that always reflects clarity of purpose through a coherent structure, supporting details, and fully understandable transitions

4Provides organization that often reflects clarity of purpose with a structure, supporting details, and transitions.

3Acceptable organization that underscores purpose; supporting details, while present, are not abundant; transitions are often but not always smooth for readers

2Organization does not support purpose; it is hard for readers to discern structure of text. Generalities used in support of ideas.

1There is no organization in the essay.

Usage and Mechanics

5Word choices are highly appropriate for intended audience; sentences are varied; there are no errors in punctuation, spelling, or grammar.

4Word choices are often appropriate for intended audience; sentences are usually varied; there are limited errors in punctuation, spelling, or grammar.

3Word choices are occasionally appropriate for intended audience; sentences are sometimes varied; there are errors in punctuation, spelling, or grammar.

2Word choices are seldom appropriate for intended audience; sentences are not varied, there are many errors in punctuation, spelling, or grammar.

1Word choices are inappropriate and confusing to intended audience; sentences are elementary or nonexistent; writing show no effort in addressing proper conventions of punctuation, spelling, or grammar.

Find out more about using this rubric.

Essay 1

The Island of Dr. Moreau

In The Island of Dr. Moreau, H. G. Wells uses internal conflict to portray the struggle that Prendrick had with himself after he found out about the experiments Montgomery and Dr. Moreau performed on the Beast folk. H. G. Wells shows the reader two sides of the internal conflict. Prendrick has a problem with the experiments performed on the Beast folk, even though he doesn’t like what Dr. Moreau does he has to except it in order to survive. After learning more about the experiments he ends up not agreeing with Dr. Moreau and why he performs them, however in order to survive on the island he has to overcome his internal conflict.

When Prendrick arrives on the island he is ignorant of the experiments that takes place. Montgomery and Dr. Moreau sit Prendrick down and explain to him what is going on and what they do in their experiments. Once Prendrick has an understanding of what is going on, he decides not to agree with Dr. Moreau’s activities.

After learning about the experiments, Prendrick has to participate in order to survive. He realizes this after Montgomery and Moreau were killed. The internal conflict that Prendrick now deals with is overwhelming. He conquers it at the end of the novel, when he becomes the only man left. While Prendrick disapproved of the experiments Dr. Moreau performed, he was the only one who survived the Beast folk. Prendrick suffered with his internal conflict, but at the end he came out strong. He made it though the “survival of the fittest”. A person is willing to conceal his or her own beliefs in order to survive.

Essay 2

Analyzing the Setting in The Island of Dr. Moreau

In his novel The Island of Dr. Moreau, H. G. Wells uses the setting to show Dr. Moreau’s position on the island. The setting is like the Garden of Eden and Dr. Moreau is like God.

The island symbolizes the Garden of Eden in the sense that new things are being created. At first, the island was beautiful and serene with nothing on it. Then natural things such as plant life started to show up and the whole island changes. The island like the Garden of Eden gave birth to the nature the world knows of today.

Dr. Moreau’s position is obvious and quite clear. If the island represents the Garden of Eden, then Dr. Moreau represents God. He is creating animals in his own image, as human as possible. “This time I will burn out all the animal.”(Wells 89). A person can not be God. With people there is always a chance for mistakes. Dr. Moreau was never satisfied, “Something in everything I do that defeats me, makes me dissatisfied, challenges me to further effort.”(Wells 88). He tries and tried again yet at the end he fails.

The novel depicts the symbols of the Garden of Eden and God. The island represents the Garden of Eden and Dr. Moreau, God. The island like the Garden is continuously giving birth to new forms and is completely changing. Dr. Moreau, thinking that he is like God, tries to create animals into human beings only to find out that he would fail. One should never think to highly of oneself. He or she will only fail.

Essay 3

The Characterization of Prendrick

The Island of Dr, Moreau, by H. G. Wells, is a horror story written in the first person. Prendrick, the main character and only survivor from the island, tells about his journey to the island and the horrific things he encountered during his stay there. At different stages throughout the novel Prendrick was characterized as being first innocent, then confused and lastly horrified by the creations on the island.

In the beginning of the novel, Prendrick was left floating in the middle of the ocean after the Lady Vain “collided” with a derelict. The H. M. Gunboat Myrtle, a shop headed for the island of Dr. Moreau, the saved him. He is innocent because he doesn’t know where he is going and why the animals are being taken there also. Being a simple bystander and a scientist himself, he doesn’t question the weird things that go on around him. He understands the need for privacy and secrecy in the scientific field.

After a while, Prendrick becomes confused with the way that things progress. The little things he noticed before are starting to connect in his mind and form a hypothesis that ahs to be tested. He wondered why Montgomery, Dr. Moreau’s assistant, pretended that he had nothing to do with the animals on the ship, before he reached the island. He also wondered why the men were so grotesque and hairy. He soon started to wonder, what Dr. Moreau was doing to the animals to cause them to scream and cry so much.

Finally Prendrick became too curious for his own good. He set out in the forest only to find animals that were shaped like humans. He witnessed “three grotesque human figures” talking amongst each other after noticing a dead rabbit not too far from them. The animal- men began to chase Prendrick and he then became terrified of Dr. Moreau because he was the creator of the animal-men.

At first, Prendrick was innocent because he knew nothing of the strange experiments taking place on the island. He was then confused because the unthinkable was going on all around him, which made the clues seem impossible. And lastly, Prendrick was horrified with the shocking discovery of the animal-men on the island that was indeed not friendly at all. If Prendrick had not been characterized in the event that he was afraid and had nothing to do with any experiments, the novel its self would not have been horrifying at all.

Evaluate These Essays

Record your answers to the following questions:

Which essay was most successful in presenting an analysis of a particular literary element?

  • Essay 1. The Island of Dr. Moreau
  • Essay 2. Analyzing the Setting in The Island of Dr. Moreau
  • Essay 3. The Characterization of Prendrick

Which essay had the strongest thesis?

  • Essay 1. The Island of Dr. Moreau
  • Essay 2. Analyzing the Setting in The Island of Dr. Moreau
  • Essay 3. The Characterization of Prendrick

Which essay was most successful in presenting cogent and persuasive evidence and references in support of its thesis?

  • Essay 1. The Island of Dr. Moreau
  • Essay 2. Analyzing the Setting in The Island of Dr. Moreau
  • Essay 3. The Characterization of Prendrick

Which essay was most successfully organized?

  • Essay 1. The Island of Dr. Moreau
  • Essay 2. Analyzing the Setting in The Island of Dr. Moreau
  • Essay 3. The Characterization of Prendrick

Which essay was most successful in using appropriate grammar, spelling and other elements of usage and mechanics?

  • Essay 1. The Island of Dr. Moreau
  • Essay 2. Analyzing the Setting in The Island of Dr. Moreau
  • Essay 3. The Characterization of Prendrick

Which essay was the most creative?

  • Essay 1. The Island of Dr. Moreau
  • Essay 2. Analyzing the Setting in The Island of Dr. Moreau
  • Essay 3. The Characterization of Prendrick

 

Based on these ratings, place the essays in the order of effectiveness on a scale of 1 to 3. A score of 1 would be given for the most effective essay. A score of 3 would be given for the least effective essay.

Essay 1. The Island of Dr. Moreau 

Score:  1    2    3 

Essay 2. Analyzing the Setting in The Island of Dr. Moreau

Score:  1    2    3

Essay 3. The Characterization of Prendrick 

Score:  1    2    3

 

Questions to Ask About Your Scoring:

What are some of your thoughts about these essays and the ways you evaluated them?

Was grammar and spelling the key to your ranking, or was it some other factor that convinced you to rate the essay the way you did?

 

Sharing Results as a Group

  1. Which essay was most successful in presenting an analysis of a particular literary element?
  2. Which essay had the strongest thesis?
  3. Which essay was most successful in presenting cogent and persuasive evidence and references in support of its thesis?
  4. Which essay was most successfully organized?
  5. Which essay was most successful in using appropriate grammar, spelling and other elements of usage and mechanics?
  6. Which essay was the most creative?

Based on these new group ratings, place the essays in the order of effectiveness. A score of 1 would be given for the most effective essay. A score of 3 would be given for the least effective essay.

How did the group results compare with your own results?

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