Using a Student's Informal Writing Sample

An informal writing sample examined Brittany’s ability to convey her ideas in a personal narrative. Her essay was evaluated in terms of her content, organization, voice, and writing conventions on a criterion-referenced rubric. After being read a model essay, Brittany received a written prompt to write about the first time she tried something new. In twenty minutes, Brittany composed a five paragraph essay on the computer. She used word processing to edit her composition. Brittany exhibited strong content, voice, and organization, with a relative weakness in her written conventions (i.e., punctuation and spelling).

Brittany demonstrated good content. She followed the written prompt and conformed to the parameters of the essay. She focused on one topic and elaborated about it throughout her narrative. She exhibited good writing fluency, as evidenced by her ability to construct five well-developed paragraphs in twenty minutes.

Brittany was exceptionally strong in the voice and personal style of her essay. She utilized humor when she included the anecdote, “We pulled up into the parking lot of Great Northern Shopping Center (or as I called it when I was little, “the green roof mall”)." There was a strong sense of Brittany’s personal style as she was telling the story. (“I am so happy that I made the decision to go back and get the other ear pierced because I love wearing earrings!”) She incorporated many sensory images and a variety of sentence types to make this an engaging story.

Brittany’s narrative was well-constructed, showing good organizational skills. It unfolded in a sequential manner, with transition phrases (i.e., “Later that day…”). In addition, she used a strong opening sentence, as well as a solid summary paragraph.

Brittany’s written conventions were weak compared to same-aged peers, and compared to her overall writing abilities. Though there were not many spelling errors, one in particular was glaring. The word “earring” was spelling “earning.” This word was the topic of the essay, and as such, was repeated incorrectly numerous times. Brittany “incorrectly” edited this word using spell check due to her weak orthographic images (memory for how words look) and phonemic awareness skills. She also struggled with punctuation, particularly question marks and exclamation points, at the end of sentences. In addition, commas and apostrophes were under-utilized in compound and complex sentences. Brittany may benefit from explicit instruction, strategies, and assistive technology to improve her knowledge of and editing for written conventions.