Writing | feedforward | assessment

Do you remember the classroom experiment in 3 parts?

As I was commenting on the final drafts I had a feeling that looking at the assessment criteria together and me pointing out what’s great and what needs improvement might be a useful thing to do, but even when we were comparing the first and final drafts and the bands they would get on the Cambridge scale for each, there were lots of ‘aha…’ and ‘hm…’, but no a-ha! moments.

So here comes a different approach you might try as this one makes it clearly visible which areas need more work and which are just fine, to everyone’s surprise. And there were some a-ha! moments for my students (and me) this time…

What you need 

  • copies of p.36 (assessment scale) & 37 (writing scheme) of the Cambridge English: Advanced handbook (one per pair) – if you’re getting students ready for any other exam – their equivalent, of course
  • copies of your students’ written assignments (each student gets a copy of her own final draft)

How to go about it

Step 1

Ask students to take a look at the Language band descriptors on the assessment scale, choose the band they feel best describes the work in front of them, note it down and leave it for now.

Step 2

Send students back to the task, then to the Content band descriptors and, if there is any need for clarification – to Content part of the writing scheme. Once they make up their minds about the band they deserve it’s time for open class feedback and your comments on their performance in this respect.

Step 3

Ask students to analyse Communicative Achievement part of the writing scheme in pairs, then look at the band descriptors and pick their bands. Elicit justification, then reveal your own notes on the matter and offer an explanation

Step 4

Focus together on Organisation part of the writing scheme. Present some examples of linking words and cohesive devices from students’ previous written work or handbook samples. Let them read the band descriptors and note down their band for Organisation next to the one for Language

Step 5

Ask students to

  • underline more complex structures
  • circle linking words
  • put a frame around cohesive devices
  • tick less common/more advanced lexis

Alternatively, you may assign colours each of them should be highlighted in.

Once they’re done, spend a moment with each of them and make sure they really notice the valuable info in front of them – hint, point to, prompt as needed.

Then it’s time for your students to revise the bands they chose for their Language and Organisation and for you to reveal and explain your choices.


A student of mine who was sure she uses less common lexis and advanced vocab items all the time? She managed to find TWO less common items. She was visibly disappointed but quickly started thinking about what could be replaced with a fancier version of itself.

Another student, who said repeatedly his writing is too simple and there are no complex structures whatsoever, found out to his and my amusement that every second sentence contained one of these, but he couldn’t find any obvious cohesive devices and only THREE linking words: and, but, so.

Lots of useful info and feedforward for the students, something clicked and I have a feeling things won’t be the same again.


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