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Using Models to Establish Digital Writing Expectations

Using Models to Establish Digital Writing Expectations

Writing in the classroom is changing at a rate faster than the speed of light, or at least it seems that way.  In the past 10 years or so, as technology use increased, I felt digital writing expectations slip away. It was hard to keep pace with the new tech tools and kids were communicating in a different language. How could I hold on to what I thought was right?

Book Study

As a teacher, like any other profession, we need to keep up-to-date on our strategies and practices by studying the experts in the field.  Each year I find a book or two to absorb and apply the knowledge I’ve gained in my classroom.  I remember reading a book a while back titled Because Digital Writing Matters produced by the National Writing Project in 2010. I liked how the book explained how to transfer high expectations over to the digital tasks that students were being introduced to in a school setting. This book laid out the expectations of the emerging 21st Century skills, or digital literacies. The experts rolled out a plan for digital citizenship and its nine elements.

I wondered about how to keep high expectations for writing in my own classroom when my students were communicating in internet slang (IM messages) and there was even a novel that came out in using that “language.”  How was I going to have my students continue to write well in this environment?  And, who’s job was it to expect and monitor this…when, at the time, our roles as teachers were changing too?

Another Book Study

Fast forward to this year.  And, add a new book of study to the list!  I read Classroom Assessment & Grading that Work by Robert Marzano. Things have come together. I made my own scoring scale, similar to the one found on page 41 of Marazano’s book. And, I am using models to establish digital writing expectationsmade easy with an online program called Buncee.

I’ve always used a 5 point scoring scale in my classroom for various topics, but this year, I’ve used the revised scale in a different way.  I learned more about the scoring scale in Marzano’s book and although he uses a 4 point scale, the thought process is the same.  Students work towards an “admirable” range of work. The discussion in my class focuses on specific details, determining if the expectations were met. If all were demonstrated, then a 4 is scored.  If anything is missing, the score drops… to a 3 (which is nearly a 4) or a 2 (which is vague and repetitive), and so on.  And, then I asked my students, “How would someone earn a 5, which means Above and Beyond?”  All of a sudden, I could see the lights turn on. (I love that moment! Teachers know what I’m talking about)  Motivation increased in many students, while some were satisfied with meeting the “admirable” expectation.

Student Models

I’ve saved many of my students’ exemplary work over the years to use as models.  I have a file cabinet of actual papers from years gone by. Then, as technology grew,  I made digital copies of documents using my elmo, and placed them in powerpoints to share models in class.  Now, I can efficiently and seamlessly use Buncee to create models to share with the class. And I’ve loved the discussion that occurs around the exemplars.

This year, I’ve integrated “choice reading” which includes their current novel, StoryWorks magazines, or online articles found at Wonderopolis, Smithsonian Tween Tribune, and others. For our first reading response using Buncee, I introduced the task using this slide. The students were learning how to create a buncee slide in response to what they chose to read that day.  So I had a few things going on…

Scoring Scale Discussion

The next day, I introduced the following slides and we discussed digital writing expectations in relationship to our scoring scale: 5- Above and Beyond, 4- Admirable, 3- Acceptable, 2- Needs Improvement, 1- Hanging by a Thread.  The rest of the slides and the classroom discussions really make the scoring scale tangible for the students.  At first, I didn’t have all of these slides, but after listening to their discussions and their reasoning, I actually created another slide quickly to match.  Kids are actually harsher graders on themselves than I am…


Score = 2

grammar and spelling mistakes

not in sentence form, not enough detail

too many astronauts- distracting


Score = 4

just enough detail, written and visual, few spelling, grammar errors, if any

Strong title, article linked, extra information provided in clip art

*can’t read the text on the background


Score = 5

all of the explanation for a 4, but the text is legible on the slide

extra details included, in addition to the text evidence from the article


Score = 1

completely off topic, little regards to presentation or following the task of providing a reading response…However, the direction was to create a buncee, and this is a buncee. A zero would be blank, or nothing turned in.  The kids were in agreement after this discussion.


At the end, we went back to the slide I originally used to introduce the task, and discussed the score.  The students all agreed on a 3. After our frank discussion, I asked, “Who would like time to revise their buncee response?”  All hands went up!  They were so excited to have the opportunity to meet all the criteria of the higher level of expectations using digital writing. And, I’m excited to have found a tool that makes my job easier and is fun to use. Thank you, Buncee!

To see the online version of the slides above, click here!

Related Post: Increase Quality of Writing Response using Vocabulary


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by Andrea M. Page (Pelican Publishing Company 2017)
Order on your copy now!
Pelican’s website click here.
Barnes & Noble
Liftbridge Bookstore
Books A Million

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Read the Kirkus Review here.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up—This well-documented title vividly brings to life the story of John Bear King and other Sioux code talkers during World War II. What makes this nonfiction text unique is the painstaking detail the author, the great-niece of King, took to research actual coded messages in military archives and transcribe them into the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota languages….The book is engaging from start to finish, with a well-written text that is enhanced by period photographs and reproductions of significant documents. VERDICT A valuable work for teens studying code talkers and American Indian contributions to the U.S. victory in the Pacific theater.—Naomi Caldwell, Alabama State University, Montgomery

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