Writing is communication.  All writers long to be understood and appreciated.  Your first response to a young writer’s writing should be a response to content.  Be specific. Quote back the parts you liked, and tell why you liked those parts. It’s also okay to give a suggestion or two for revision (if the piece is to be revised), or to suggest a couple of  things to work on in future writings. Here are a couple of examples:

Title: The Dog (A first person piece about wanting a dog.)

I loved the part about how your hamster “won’t greet me with anything more than a yawn,” and how you can’t teach him to fetch, or lick your face voluntarily. These are nice details. I’d like to know what reasons your parents give for not having a dog, and what you think of those reasons.

Title: Untitled (A first person piece about playing soccer.)

I like the specific details you give about one particular game where you got elbowed and ended up with a black eye “but that didn’t keep me away from playing soccer.” I can tell from the way you write that you really love the game.  I wonder if you’d like to add more about how you first got interested in playing the game.

For more information on assessment, check out the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory’s site, and their rubrics for writing assessment:

From the Writing Curriculum Files of Children’s Author, Suzanne Williams