Thursday / April 25

Using Student Checklists to Produce Optimal Results

Contributed by Kathy Glass

In my books Mapping Comprehensive Units to the ELA Common Core, K-5 and 6-12, I provide a rationale and suggestions for how teachers can use student checklists within an instructional program. There are a number of writing checklists that educators can download and use for various assessments like the Argumentation Student Checklist shown below and also in this link.

To assist students in producing written products that represent their best work, teachers can prepare a writing checklist and share it purposefully so it becomes an effective instructional tool. When students are well aware of criteria for a comprehensive writing assignment, they have a higher like­lihood of success since knowing the expectations enables them to tackle the writing task with a clear sense of purpose. Presenting a writing checklist to students early in a unit, rather than near the end when they begin work on it, serves to articulate what the summative assessment will entail so they can aptly prepare, identifies how they will be assessed, and provides a preview to the lessons a teacher will conduct to support them in the task. The following are suggestions for using student checklists well:

  1. Establish frequency and familiarity. Orient students to the notion that checklists are a way of doing business in the classroom. Sometimes they will help create checklists; other times a teacher will prepare and provide one for them. Teachers can create checklists customized for specific assignments (e.g., literary critique based on a novel, argumentation essay, etc.), and for ongoing formative assessments (e.g., quick write, journal response).
  2. Present a checklist to students. It is best to properly introduce a checklist rather than distribute it without any explanation since this will likely overwhelm students. Teachers should engender ownership by conducting an activity like the following for an involved writing process piece:
    • The teacher can pose a prompt, for example: “What does a strong argumentation essay include?” In groups, students brainstorm a list in response to the prompt to itemize what they think might be included in a checklist.
    • Groups report out as the teacher records collective responses on an interactive whiteboard or chart paper.
    • Next the teacher distributes the prepared checklist and asks students to compare the class-generated list with this teacher checklist. (See the Argumentation Student Checklist as a sample.)
    • Facilitate a discussion in which students identify items that are on the teacher checklist that aren’t on their list and how these items add value. By the same token, students might even add to the prepared checklist because they have brainstormed something pertinent that the class agrees needs to be added.
  3. Use the checklist to state objectives and find or create lessons. Teachers conduct lessons around salient elements on the checklist. Some checklist items, like for grammar or conventions, may not warrant a formal lesson. Although, if students are writing a paper that requires citations, for example, this likely constitutes a formal lesson. Teachers refer to the checklist regularly as each line item represents targeted skills and states a purpose for learning.
  4. Use the checklist while writing. Remind students frequently that they will use the checklist as a guide while writing and not as an afterthought once the first draft is complete. This means it needs to be visible throughout the stages of the writing process so they have a clear sense of expectations each step of the way from drafting to publishing.

It is advantageous to use writing checklists regularly so students are aware of the structure, characteristics, and other elements of a particular writing genre and task. By clearly delineating these expectations, students are better positioned to produce well-developed, well-crafted, and organized pieces that showcase their best work.


Argumentation Writing Checklist

DIRECTIONS: Use this checklist to guide you as you write an argument about a debatable topic.


Figure 8.11. Copyright © 2013. Mapping Comprehensive Units to the ELA Common Core Standards, 6–12 by Kathy T. Glass.




Kathy Tuchman Glass

Kathy Glass, a former teacher who holds current teaching certification, is an author and national consultant for K-12 audiences with nearly 30 years of experience in education. As an author of seven books, she is well-versed in the field and recognized for her expertise in differentiated instruction, ELA Common Core, accessing complex text, literacy strategies and collaborative learning tasks. A dynamic presenter and hands-on trainer, Kathy is invested in increasing educators’ capacity to hone their craft so they can translate what she teaches to effective classroom practice. To meet the needs of clients, she customizes topics and professional development offerings (e.g., coaching, lesson demonstration, modeling, presenting, and training) for audiences of all sizes—teams of teachers to whole school or district groups. Her website is and her email is


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