Assessing Students’ Ability to Defend Claims: A Trick

In Updates by Punita Rice

How do you assess your students’ ability to defend a claim or stance, without having them write out a paragraph every time? If you’re a writing, language arts, social studies, and/or humanities teacher, you know this struggle. Assessing students’ skills is really important. But is very time consuming. You’ve probably come up with a hundred different ways to do it (and all of them take hours to grade).

Sometimes, though, you just need a quick check-in! Here’s one way that I stumbled across while having students prepare for a major writing assignment…

Give students a reading, and assign them a claim (we’ll call it “Claim 1”). Hand them a highlighter in one color, and ask them to highlight the pieces of evidence in a reading that support Claim 1. Then, as a class, go over all the possible lines/sentences that could have been highlighted to support that claim.

You can give out a second highlighter color and have students highlight the pieces of evidence in the reading that support a second claim (whcih we can call “Claim 2”)… and so on.

I stumbled onto this approach while having students build their evidence-hunting skills before gearing up for a larger writing assignment. I realized as they were doing this work that it was letting them build this skill, and that I could evaluate their progress and mastery on this one thing, rather than waiting until they did their final assignments.

This fits with the sixth component of Dr. Mariale Hardiman‘s Brain Based Teaching model, too (you can read more about that here if you’d like). That component is about assessing students’ skills. It focuses on how teachers should evaluate student learning in effective ways (that are also efficient)! When done right, this trick can be a good way to do that.

What are some ways you assess students’ skills in writing (outside of grading essays)?

(Art by Rowland Davidson)