It seems that the formative essay is not always popular. The reason for this is that it means that as a student you have to do the work and then analyse what you have done, why you have done it and how you could improve upon it. As a student this can seem as an irritating waste of time as you feel that if you have done the work, that should be enough. This can be understandable when your workload seems too much and you are tired and stressed. However, if you can learn how to assess your own work formatively, your grades will go up. Fundamentally, being able to write a formative essay gives you power over your work and therefore your own future. Essentially, this means that you are no longer reliant on your tutors or professors to be able to understand how you can improve.
In this article, we will explore:
- How to formatively assess Creative Writing.
- How to use formative assessment in a Drama essay.
- How to use formative assessment in a Literature essay.
How to formatively assess your creative writing
Formative assessment is a large part of a Creative Writing course whether it is at undergraduate level or above. It is important in this subject because it is not enough to be able to write a literary piece or a travel piece, you also have to explain in full detail the journey from the genesis of the piece right through to the finished text. Let’s look at how you might formatively assess a piece of your writing. Let’s imagine for instance, you have written the first draft for a short story about a woman that wants to find her adopted son but she hasn’t got time because she is going bankrupt and her husband is an alcoholic.
Writing an essay on your writing journey will immediately make you think about the problems that you have got with your first draft. If it’s a short story of 1,000 words and you start off by analysing the plot, you can immediately see that you’ve got too much of it. In fact, you have got enough to sink a ship in there. The plot is actually enough for a novel not a short story. This is a mistake that most learner writers make. However, if you have to write an essay that formatively assesses your writing journey on that story and you point out your mistake, you will get marks for being able to spot potential mistakes in your writing. This depicts to the examiner evidence of knowledge. Therefore, it is imperative that you point out steps like this. It is tempting when writing a formative piece for Creative Writing to suggest that your finished piece is what you created originally. Don’t ever do that, examiners are expecting you to demonstrate a creative journey that highlights your expertise on your subject.
Let’s imagine at this point that you decide that the plot needs to trimmed down extensively and you pinpoint it to a couple of scenes where the woman is meeting her adopted son for the first time outside Lincoln Castle, a place that she never been to before. In your story, you decide that she will take the three children from her marriage and also her mother so that she can meet her new grandson. You also decide that as they sit in a coffee house, the boy’s father that she hasn’t seen for thirty years turns up because this will give it a dramatic twist. Let’s look at how you can formatively assess these ideas:
If we stick to the idea that it is a short story of 1,000 words, there is usually only enough room, at the very most, for three characters. To get the best depth of characterisation, two characters is better. Can you imagine trying to fit in the other children and the mother too? It would take away the depth of the story and make it chaotic.
Dramatic twists are all very well in their place but in this situation it is problematic. For one reason, the likelihood of them bumping into the boy’s father is unrealistic. Secondly, there is not enough room in the 1,000 words for this to happen well. The emphasis is on the mother’s emotions when meeting her son again. Learner writers are often tempted to throw in dramatic twists that are either unbelievable or excessive; this is why formative analysis is such a wonderful learning tool for Creative Writing.