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Writing Exemplars Project Development Acknowledgements


The Nova Scotia Writing Exemplars website provides representative Spring of the year samples of Nova Scotia student writing based on the curriculum expectations defined in student learning outcomes for writing. Teachers, students and families will observe four levels of representative achievement in writing at each grade from one to eight as well as reflective notes by Nova Scotia teachers. These notes inform instructional next steps to support Nova Scotia students' continued improvement and achievement as writers.

Nova Scotia writing exemplars provide teachers, students and families with tangible evidence of the levels of student writing at each grade level and reveal pathways for students’ continued growth as writers. Teachers and families support individual students’ writing development by valuing student writing, and providing the instructional supports of time and opportunity to write using a writing process and the integration of appropriate technology.

In the Nova Scotia Writing Exemplars project, teachers, administrators and students used Ontario Ministry of Education writing tasks and rubrics (scoring scales) with Nova Scotia students. The resulting Nova Scotia writing samples were marked holistically. Those selected for inclusion in this website represent four levels of writing achievement at each grade level, from grades one to eight. The choice of samples reflects the professional judgment of Nova Scotia teachers. The process used for the Nova Scotia Writing Exemplars Project serves as a model for Nova Scotia school boards, schools, and teachers in setting writing tasks in the context of regular classroom work, developing scoring rubrics, assessing the writing of students, and planning for the improvement of student writing. The samples are not intended to be used as standards or bench marks for the province.

The anonymous samples have been reproduced "as is", with no attempt to edit the students' work.


The Nova Scotia Writing Exemplars Project website has been developed to:

  • show the connections between what students are expected to learn (the expectations) and how their work can be assessed on the basis of four levels of achievement;

  • show the characteristics of student writing at each of four levels of achievement for each grade;

  • promote greater consistency in the assessment of student work from grade to grade and across the province;

  • provide an approach to improving student learning by demonstrating the use of clear criteria applied to student writing in response to clearly defined tasks, and by including examples of possible feedback to students in the form of Teachers' Notes;

  • link the characteristics of student writing to professional, family, and instructional resources which support students’ growth as writers;

  • promote the writing process outlined in Nova Scotia curriculum guidelines.

  • illustrate the range of forms and genres of student writing done by hand and using technological tools.

Teachers, families, and students are encouraged to examine the student samples, to think about the characteristics and descriptions of work at each level of achievement in the individual grades, and to develop an understanding of how one level of achievement differs from another. Teachers might also wish to discuss the strategies they could use to enhance student learning and to promote student achievement in writing.


Nova Scotia school boards were invited to provide student writing samples for the Nova Scotia Writing Exemplars Project at the end of the 2004-2005 school year. Participating teachers and principals administered the provincial writing tasks and collected classroom samples of student writing. The writing samples were locally scored by teachers using the provincially adopted scoring rubrics. The samples and scoring were reviewed by a provincial working group of teachers and administrators who selected representative samples of each of four levels of writing at each grade level from throughout Nova Scotia. They created Teachers’ Notes for inclusion on this website.

The provincial working group reviewed the design and content of the draft website, and will recommend teacher professional, family, and instructional resources for inclusion on the website to support students’ writing growth. The participation of Nova Scotia teachers from all regions has been invaluable in developing the Nova Scotia Writing Exemplars website.



The Nova Scotia Writing Exemplars Project website contains:
  • an overview of the student tasks, and the teaching and learning strategies used to produce the writing samples for each grade level

  • Writing Task - Instructions for the Teacher (by grade level)

  • Writing Task - Student Work Sheets (by grade level)

  • Writing Task - specific assessment rubrics (by grade level)

  • Student Planners - Inspiration downloadable files

  • Exemplars of student writing for each grade level that reflect the four levels of achievement; (in a range of formats and genres – handwritten, word processed, storyboard, multimedia)

  • Teachers' Notes that explain why a particular achievement level was assigned to each exemplar of student writing

  • an Interactive Literacy Café where Nova Scotia teachers and literacy mentors communicate, collaborate and problem solve together to support students’ literacy development

In the future, it is anticipated that the Nova Scotia Writing Exemplars Project website will contain:

  • links to professional development resources in a range of formats (print, pdf, video, audio, multimedia)

  • links to instructional materials in a range of formats (print, pdf, video, audio, multimedia)

  • links to family resources in a range of formats (print, pdf, video, audio, multimedia)

  • a glossary of assessment terms

How the Rubrics Were Developed and Applied

The Writing Exemplars project defines the term rubric to mean a scale. In this case, one that describes levels of achievement for a particular complex task. It guides the scoring of that task according to relevant criteria. To assess student achievement, the teacher chooses from different descriptions of work that are specific to each level of achievement. The rubrics adopted by the Nova Scotia Department of Education for the Writing Exemplars Project provide an effective means of assessing the particular type of student performance, allow for consistent scoring of student performance, and provide information to students on how to improve their work.

Although rubrics were used effectively in this project, they are only one way to assess student achievement. Other forms of classroom assessment include anecdotal records, checklists, tests, and teacher observation. Teachers select and use many assessment tools to assess and evaluate student achievement.

A Writing Exemplars Project rubric accompanies each writing task. The achievement levels for writing focus on four categories of knowledge and skills: reasoning, communication, organization, and conventions. The brief descriptions in the rubrics apply in a general way to all language assessment. Each rubric contains the following components:

  • the categories and the achievement levels (i.e., the framework)

  • the relevant criteria (descriptions of student learning)

  • the expectations for the grade level (level 3 on the achievement-levels chart is the provincial standard)

  • the required components specific to each writing task (e.g., the parts of a letter)

The rubrics for the writing tasks are similar to some components of the writing scales used by the Grade 6 provincial English Language Arts assessment which is based on the curriculum expectations and the achievement levels for language in Nova Scotia. Each student participating in the exemplars project prepared one writing sample in response to a single task.

How the Samples Were Selected

Nova Scotia teachers reviewed the elaborated descriptions in the rubrics and then applied them to assess Nova Scotia student writing samples at both the district school board level and the provincial level. The teachers used a process that is sometimes called "consensus marking" or "teacher moderation":

  • The teachers first reviewed all of their students' work samples and assigned a holistic score (from level 1 to level 4) to each sample.

  • The teachers then reviewed the samples a second time, looking at all four categories in the rubric to provide an analytic score (e.g., level 1 in "Reasoning", level 2 in "Communication").

  • Following these steps, the teachers assigned each sample an overall level based on both the holistic score and the analytic score, with reference to specific criteria requirements that had been met in the student sample.

  • All the writing samples were submitted to a provincial selection team of teachers which chose the samples for each level of each grade. The comments of the selection team are included in this publication so that teachers, families, and students will be able to see how a rubric for a particular writing task has been applied to the samples of student writing.

The following should be noted:

  • Two samples of student writing have been provided at each of the four achievement levels. The use of two samples is intended to show that the characteristics of a level can be exemplified in different ways.

  • The majority of student writing samples in this website were selected to show a level of achievement that was consistent in the four categories (reasoning, communication, organization, and conventions). In classrooms, student achievement may vary across categories.

  • The students' effort was not assessed.

  • Student samples that were assessed using the rubrics and judged to be below grade level were not included in this website.

  • Each of the sample tasks reflects only one possible form of student writing (e.g., a letter). Students will practice many other kinds of writing during the school year.

Using the Writing Samples

Teachers and Administrators

The samples of student writing included in the Writing Exemplars website will help teachers and administrators by:

  • enabling them to help students improve their achievement in writing by using the student writing samples and the criteria for assessment;

  • providing a basis for conversations among colleagues, families, and students about the assessment and evaluation of student achievement in writing;

  • facilitating communication with families regarding the learning expectations and levels of achievement at each grade level;

  • promoting fair, consistent, and objective assessment of student writing within and across grade levels.

Teachers may choose to:

  • use the teaching/learning activities outlined in the writing tasks;

  • adapt the writing tasks and rubrics to design comparable writing tasks;

  • compare copies of their students' work with the samples in this booklet;

  • develop rubrics with colleagues and students;

  • share student work with colleagues for consensus marking;

  • partner with other schools to design tasks and rubrics, and to select samples for other writing tasks and other subject areas;

  • consult the linked professional and instructional resources to support classroom learning;

  • dialogue with colleagues in the Literacy Cafe.

Administrators may choose to:

  • encourage and facilitate teacher collaboration regarding standards and assessment;

  • facilitate sessions for families and school councils on this website;

  • participate in future exemplars projects within their district school boards or on behalf of the Department of Education.


The Writing Exemplars tasks exemplify a range of meaningful and relevant learning activities that are representative of tasks related to the curriculum in Grades 1-8. In addition, the website invites the involvement and support of families in the writing process, as they work with their children to improve their achievement in writing. Families can use the student writing samples, rubrics and linked resources as:

  • models to help monitor their children's progress from level to level and from grade to grade;

  • a basis for communication with teachers about their children's achievement;

  • a source of information to help their children improve their achievement;

  • models to illustrate the application of the levels of achievement;

  • a resource to help them understand their children's report cards.


Students write every day, and written communication in a range of media is a part of learning in all curriculum areas. Student performance improves when students are given clear expectations for learning, clear criteria for assessment, instructional support, and immediate and helpful feedback. The rubrics in this website provide specific criteria that indicate achievement from level to level and from grade to grade. Students' performance improves as students receive instructional support; and as they are encouraged to take responsibility for their own achievement and to reflect on their own progress and "next steps".

It is anticipated that this website will help students in the following ways:

  • Students can use the samples and rubrics as models.

  • The writing tasks and the samples will help clarify the curriculum expectations for learning.

  • The rubrics and the comments of the teacher selection teams will help clarify the assessment criteria.

  • Students' awareness of the tasks and rubrics will help them to communicate more effectively about their achievement with their teachers and parents, and to ask relevant questions about their own progress.

  • Students can use the criteria and the student samples of the highest achievement levels to design "next steps" to improve their writing.

  • The instructions for the writing tasks will help students apply the writing process to their own writing.

Please select the Exemplars Menu above to view the Writing Tasks, Rubrics and Student Writing Exemplars which are arranged by grade level.

1. The words family and families are used throughout this document to include parent(s), other family members, and guardian(s) who raise children.
2. The Nova Scotia Department of Education was given permission to publish the writing samples in this website.
3. The Nova Scotia Department of Education was given permission to reproduce and adapt the writing tasks found in The Ontario Curriculum – Exemplars, Grades 1 – 8: Writing by the Ministry of Government Services, Province of Ontario.
4. In 1997, the Atlantic Departments of Education, through the Atlantic Provinces Education Foundation, developed learning outcomes for writing. Those curricular learning outcomes state what students will be expected to understand, value and do by the end of key-stages of learning in grades three, six, nine and twelve. Further curriculum development work undertaken in Nova Scotia established expectations of student achievement in writing at each grade level. Students, parents, and teachers share the desire and responsibility to continue to improve student writing. In 2005, The Nova Scotia Department of Education researched representative exemplars of student writing from leading educational jurisdictions. The selected model for the Nova Scotia Writing Exemplars Project was designed by the Ontario Ministry of Education in 1999,
The Ontario Curriculum – Exemplars, Grades 1-8:Writing.