Mark Your Compositions
To mark your composition,
teachers will look at four areas: Conventions, Form,
Style, and Meaning. Each of these is worth 25% of
your total score on any composition.
Briefly, the four areas are
defined as follows:
Conventions: These are the basic parts of your
writing: the spelling, punctuation, grammar, and sentence
structure. Teachers look for the number of errors made and, more
importantly, to see if these errors make it hard to understand
your writing. (Go to our Quiz
Page for practice)
This is the order of your writing and how easy it is to follow
your ideas. In an essay, for example, teachers examine how well
your introduction, body, and conclusion work together and how
logical your order of ideas is inside each paragraph. (See
class notes with tips
for good essays)
Here, your sentence variety and knowledge of idiom and
vocabulary are very important. How fluent is your language? Are
your sentences precise? To excel, a student needs a good
repertoire of sentence types, along with a strong vocabulary.
(View the Advanced
Composition Worksheet Archive)
Teachers look here for signs of your developing voice in
writing. The more individual (meaning your ideas are specific to
your own experience and you have conveyed them well) the better.
Are your ideas convincing? Are they mature? Originality counts
here. Remember the rule: Show, Don't Tell! (Worksheet
on Show, Don't Tell)
Marking Test Essays
Marking forty student test essays
was interesting for me this term. The application of our new
essay marking system will certainly bring great benefits to PALC
Many of you passed the English 10
level this term. I look forward to working with you at the
credit course level next term. Those of you who have not yet
passed, pay special attention to my comments below.
Each student receives feedback on
four key areas of their writing: use of conventions; formal
structure; sentence style; meaningful ideas and content.
Make sure you pay special
attention to your score in each area. Each of the four counts
for 25 marks from the 100 total. If you score, for example, a
9/25 in conventions, then it is time to get out your Language
Power Workbook and get to work on exercises!
Remember, you are not allowed to
keep your tests, so be sure to write down your scores.
As a general comment, I found
many of the best essays were also the most personal. By
"personal," I mean that the writer conveyed unique information
in a concise way that reflected his or her own life experiences.
Thus, these students wrote better essays that better reflected
their our own thinking.
I greatly enjoyed reading all the
essays and longer compositions this term. For those of you who
shared the more personal details of your lives, I thank you.
Each night, after marking many essays, my head was pleasantly
filled with your experiences and unique ideas.
New Rules for
Marking Writing at the PALC
In December 2001, your teachers
met to discuss the recent certificate tests, especially the
student writing. Since good writing skills are exceedingly
important for successful study at our higher levels, we worked
hard to make sure our tests would be fairly administered.
A number of concerns were raised
by the teachers, the most serious being what to do if a student
writes a composition (essay or paragraph) off topic.
There were two ways students
appeared to go off the assigned topic: one way was when the
student had clearly misunderstood the given topic; the other was
when the student had a "pre-prepared" idea of their writing and
seemed to have "memorized" key sentences.
All of us noted essays and
paragraphs that, for example, outlined the difficulties of
learning the English language. The problem was that no
topic given on the tests required such a response from the
students! It became clear to us that students may have used the
topic before and then tried to make it "fit" to the given topic.
Another serious concern was that
teachers felt that a few students appear to have shared the
assigned topics with friends who were writing later that day.
In such cases, teachers found
differences between their students "normal" writing ability and
mismatches between writing in, for example, the body of an essay
and its introduction and conclusion.
In some cases, information given
in an essay far exceeded the required number of words and was in
more detail than an in-class essay would normally be (all of us
have sketchy memories for facts, unfortunately!).
As a result, teachers have agreed
that, in order to mark fairly all of our students, we will adopt
the following rules for the next certificate tests in June.
Rules for Marking of Compositions
1. Writing "off topic" will be
awarded a DNP (did not pass).
2. All writing topics will be
on a separate sheet and given out at random (for example, five
students come to get a topic; each topic sheet received will
contain different topics)
3. To emphasize the importance
of writing (and reading), marks will be weighted as follows:
writing (40%); reading (40%); grammar (20%).
Problems (and Solutions)
Restating the thesis is often not done or
poorly done by students. Remember that the first sentence of
the conclusion is RESERVED for the restated thesis.
Paraphrasing is the essential skill for this
kind of writing. Two ways used in our worksheets for restatement
of the thesis:
use a different form (from a noun to
adjective for example) of the same word OR
change the word order of the sentence.
Three BIG problems with conclusions:
the first is NO restatement; second, the restatement is a new
idea or different; third, the conclusion itself contains NEW
ideas. (By the way, I forgot to tell you these ideas)
Make sure to carefully write your
conclusion, checking for proper form BEFORE handing it in!
Three BIG problems with introductions:
THESIS is placed in the first sentence in the paragraph (as in a
regular, body paragraph); second, the THESIS is in more than one
sentence; third, student tries to say TOO MUCH in the
introduction (the introduction is as long or even longer than
the body paragraphs that follow).
Make sure your thesis is the
final sentence and that the main ideas are contained in ONE
Save your details and examples
for the body of the essay.
Information on the Paragraph
Many students will need to write a good quality paragraph
during the certificate tests.
It is especially important as
teachers want students to have good writing skills before
advancing to higher levels (which, of course, they hope all
of you do!).
Here are some of the resources
available at the PALC Web site to help you with the paragraph:
Tazim's Weekly Feature: Writing Paragraphs
Brad's Teacher Writing: Writing a Good Paragraph
Louise's Paragraph Checklist
Brad's Sample Descriptive Paragraph
Eight Student Sample
Paragraphs (An Important Person) (Includes teacher comments
Student Tips for Writing Good Paragraphs