Hahani Mai

Hawaiian expression

"To do something wonderful"





Double Alohas


1. Period Piece

A Writing Sample Critique


"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." 

  - Ben Franklin


    Careful examination of a student’s writing sample can disclose the particular developmental stage the child is in, reveal skills already mastered, proficiencies that the student is on the cusp of learning, as well as the weaknesses that need to be addresses. Consequently, it is imperative to assess an authentic piece of writing. As we establish the parameters of the child’s developmental stage, we need to first ascertain what the child knows. Following this, we can match the student’s deficiencies with appropriate learning material.

The following artifact resulted from the efforts of Laura, a bright third grader. To insure its authenticity, Laura was asked to choose a topic that interested her, and, without the teacher's help, write a story about it. She subsequently submitted the following sample.

"One apon a time their lived a poor little big mother cat who was about to have baby kittens. She lived with her cat in a cave at the edge of town. She got all her yucky stuff from the dump that was also at the edge of town. And nobody new what the girl’s name was. They just called her girl. One day Girl was at the dump wen she met the garbadge man. They talked for a while and he said that his name was Joe. Joe asked Girl to see her house. Girl said yes and she barrowed some tea bags from the dump and they had tea in her cave. The cat had kittens and she let Joe have one. Their were five of them so now she had four. Girl and her kittens had a wonderful time together. They played on the river bank and they went into town so she could buy them a cat bed. As they went home Girl got a bath in the river, (for she stunk) and when she got home Girl put her kittens to bed and they lived happily ever after. "

    A perusal of Laura’s sample has yielded a cornucopia of information regarding her not unsubstantial knowledge of writing craft. First, utilizing her neat and very legible handwriting, she has developed her story within a valid framework or structure, that includes a beginning, middle and end. In addition, throughout the story she has demonstrated sentence sense, ending each thought with a period before beginning a new one.

    Laura commences her narrative with a legitimate introductory sentence, and then proceeds to acquaint us with the characters. Next, she posits and expands the main idea ((the cat having kittens), and following this, describes the setting. Our writer then lays out a sequential exposition of succeeding events, replete with details, and ultimately ends the story with a time-honored concluding sentence.

    Evaluating her effort, we find that Laura has displayed near mastery of writing mechanics, such as capitalization (including proper nouns, and sentence end marks), as well as proper syntax. Her prose accommodates correct verb tense, number, and irregular forms, (i.e., stunk). Further, she has correctly used the parenthesis. Her variety of sentence lengths gives the piece a certain cadence and rhythm, as well. I even detect her equiniminous voice throughout the story, as her character, Girl, deals with each situation in a level headed, unemotional manner.

    Laura’s mastery of spelling is impressive. The story contained 186 words and we recorded only 5 spelling errors which tranlated to a less than 3% error rate. It is also evident that she has utilized long and short vowel patterns to spell words, and has correctly added inflectional endings as well.

    A major flaw in our third grader’s sample was the lack of a title. However, taking into account her numerous writing proficiencies, this was probably just an oversight, and a gentle reminder should be corrective

    Some other things that Laura is on the brink of learning, but needs to improve upon, are indenting her sentence at the beginning of her piece and expanding her writing to include more descriptive words. Exercises that include adjectives and adverbs, combined with Thesaurus exercises are consequently recommended. Moreover, when she presents a new idea, she needs to start a new paragraph. A graphic organizer that stresses the connection between distinct ideas and new, indented paragraphs would be beneficial.

    Laura must also learn to insert commas to indicate pauses. Reading her essay aloud would emphasize the needed breathing spaces, as well as the requirement for accompanying commas. Likewise, this student should enclose her dialogue within quotation marks, as well as concentrate on expanding her repertoire of transitional words. Her writing, unfortunately, is nearly bereft of these time connectors, (first, then, next, soon after that, later that day, etc.). A personalized list of common transitional words and phrases ought to accompany her future writing efforts.

    Laura’s spelling highlights her near mastery of sight words, as well as most grade level words. However, her relatively few misspellings attest to the fact that she must focus on her homophones. (She confuses their for there, and new for knew). Perhaps including a homophone section on the word wall, with an accompanying editor’s checklist, would prove salutary.

    The child’s other errors, (apon for upon, wen for when, and barrowed for borrowed), are phonetic and undoubtedly reflect her speech. I would endorse a visual review of these words. Her final misstep, (garbadge for garbage), was probably the result of inferring that the word "badge" was the final syllable in garbage.

    In conclusion, since writing is a developmental process, it is important to identify the student’s stage in order to insure authentic assessment. I believe that Laura’s writing developmental stage is Early Independent and Productive. She wrote the piece independently and communicated her thoughts well. her mastery over structure is imposing. She presented us with her main idea, and then told the story simply, clearly and sequentially.

    Laura's style of writing, in this instance, is both conversational and literary. She has included contemporary slang such as "yucky", and a child friendly plot, (i.e., a cat having kittens). Laura’s tale contains literary elements as well. Both her opening and closing sentences reflect book language. Further, the protagonist’s hardscrabble existence, as well as her home, a cave, are familiar to those acquainted with children’s literature. This once again underlines the entwining nexus between reading and writing. It also shows that Laura already views herself as a writer, making text to self, text to text, and text to the world connections. I see a bright future for this budding author.



"Think of your writing as a birthday present. The beginning is handing your gift to the person and looking for their delight.
The main idea is the box's content.
The details are the bows and wrapping paper.
The concluding sentence is the ribbon that ties it all together."
-Ruth Culham









2. Holiday Plans

A Writing Starter for the First Grade


Step 1

Try to remember all the things you did on your last holiday. Now, draw three pictures about the things you did that day.

Picture 1 might show you waking up or eating  breakfast or starting off on your trip.

The second picture tells us about your activities during the day.

 The final drawing describes what you did after dinner or while preparing to sleep.


Step 2

Write About Your Pictures!


Title Suggestion

"My Holiday"

Paragraph 1

Tell us about the first picture. Include the who, what, where and when in your story.


Paragraph 2

Write about the second picture. Include details, details, and more details.


Paragraph 3

Describe your after dinner activities. Add more details. 


Final Sentence

Let your readers know  how you felt about the holiday.

-Betina DeBell





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