The more you practice-the better you get

October 2, 2015
Alix Horton

Alix Horton

This is part 2 of a 2-part series on the use of NTN’s curriculum-embedded performance assessments as a tool to drive teacher practice and student development in both literacy and content-area understanding.  The introduction and closing of this student reflection was written by NTN Literacy Coach, Alix Horton.

Writing is an essential skill for college and career readiness.  David Conley, director of the Center for Education Policy Research, notes that, “writing may be the single overarching academic skills most closely associated with college success,” and we can see that just in the sheer amount of writing done in college to both synthesize and communicate thinking and learning. And in careers, whether you’re an engineer writing reports or a nurse completing a chart, or a professor explaining the implications of a particular treaty, writing is how we communicate the knowledge and learning of our chosen fields. That’s why it’s so essential for students to get the kind of meaningful practice in writing that Beth describes below.  

Part one: College Ready Assessments don’t have to get lost in the Matrix!




From Freshman year until now, my Senior year, there is a drastic difference for the better in my writing, the things that I have always been good at, like storytelling, and the things that I was never good at, like writing essays. In more ways than one, the smaller assignments, not only the major ones, have shaped my writing and given me practice in different aspects of my writing – technical, persuasive, historical, all kinds of different styles of writing which have been embedded into projects that I was given. All of these assignments helped in the steady improvement of my writing.

In everything you do, whether it is singing, or playing an instrument, the more you practice, the more times you perform, the better you get. The same goes for writing, even the small assignments that seem meaningless will help you in the long run because you will gain more experience. For this blog, I decided to look at four assignments; one from Freshman year, one from Sophomore year, and one from Junior year, and one from this year (Senior), all narratives, and all vastly different.

The narrative from Freshman year seems immature, although partially intentional as it was written in the voice of a 10 year old, the structure of the narrative was inconsistent to say the least. The narrative from Sophomore year is much better, it is from the perspective of a young woman in her mid to late 20s; this narrative is straightforward, honest, and solid. This narrative is proof of how much a person can grow in the short span of a year.

This is for multiple reasons, but I can say with certainty that the primary reason that my writing improved so drastically was because there were so many small assignments, the ones that didn’t affect my grade as much, but still had some weight in preparing me for the larger assignments. Even in Sophomore year, when some of those smaller assignments were no longer graded, I was always better off getting those done in the long run.

Looking at my Junior year narrative, it is much shorter than the rest, but it is better because it contains so much more information about the narrator in fewer, more effective, more emotionally rich words. The one from this year is more mature than the others, more developed and a reflection of who I have become as a thinker. It has been a process, but the process is effective. In the short span of four years, my writing has gone from a D average, to an A-B average. Though stressful at times, the benchmarks, the smaller writing assignments, even writing single paragraph warm-ups on the topic that the main essay will be on is a simple way to expand your thoughts on a possibly limited subject. The point is that no matter how seemingly small the writing assignment, it will ultimately help you in your quest to grow as a writer.

– Beth is currently a senior at Central Coast New Tech High School


I love hearing Beth describe how small assignments, over time, impacted the quality of her writing.  It’s also great to hear her reflecting in a metacognitive way about how she’s improved.  It’s that kind of iteration and reflection that grows the kinds of writers who will be successful in both college and career.