The big day is Monday. Casting about for ways to prepare the weekend before, I decided to do another one of Patrick Ledesma's tri-pane practice prompts. My two-year old son, who was supposed to be napping upstairs, woke up when I was six minutes into it. I made it back to the keyboard an hour or two later and forced myself to finish, but had lost my mojo. In reviewing, I realized that the only thing my practice essay presented clear and convincing evidence of was that I could type 370 words in approximately thirty minutes.
Anyway, here as a helpful reminder are the Criteria for Scoring from Patrick's simulation, which I assume are pretty close to the real thing.
To satisfy the highest level of the scoring rubric, your response must provide clear, consistent, and convincing evidence of the following:
- an in-depth description of patterns of writing and writing conventions; and
- a thorough understanding of the recursive nature of the writing process.
And below are the prompt and my lame response, for all the world to see. The question is on something I am literally in the middle of doing with students right now, Romeo and Juliet. Specifically, a kid has written a comparison of the play and the cool movie version by Baz Luhrman, the one with guns and drugs and Leo DiCaprio.
My response to my response, other than self-flagellation, is that it doesn't really reflect my teaching. Part of that is the timed format. I structured my answer, under the conditions, by paraphrasing the questions and then filling in the blanks below each to make a paragraph. It's not organic, in the way that I normally write. (Ironic, isn't it, that my response is supposed to reflect my knowledge of the recursive nature of the writing process.) But I don't feel safe in doing that on this sort of essay. What else could they possibly take points off for more easily than not addressing the questions?
This also doesn't feel right because the kids I have now would never write this sort of response, nor would I ever assign it. In other words, unlike the portfolio, which was based on my actual teaching, this is hypothetical to me and bears no resemblance to the circumstances under which I currently teach.
To whit, my own ninth graders have just finished reading the play, and are working on a final assessment we call group troupe. Basically, they are creating fifteen-minute long group dramatic essays by stringing together scenes from the play interwoven with their own narrative. It's a fantastically complex activity, and beats the pants off, Which did you like better, the movie or the book?
As a matter of fact, while I skip school on Monday to take the test, my kids will be diligently rehearsing for performances on Thursday. Whether or not their teacher can muster clear and convincing responses on command in the assessment center, I'm confident the skits themselves will show that my students have engaged in a truly meaningful way with some of life's biggest ideas via a classic piece of literature. May we all break a leg.