More than ever before, assessments today are becoming about performance. Can a student apply the learning standards he or she was taught in the classroom? Writing assessments typically require a student to respond to a prompt, exhibiting his or her writing skills and demonstrating common core standards. The following are some helpful tips when instructing your students how to write to a prompt.
Look for task words
Task words are the verbs in the prompt. What does the prompt ask you to do? Read the prompt several times, circling the verbs. In narrative prompts, search for task words such as describe or tell about (a time when). Persuasive or argumentative prompts will use task words such as argue, convince, persuade, or support your opinion. Expository prompts may have tasks like explain, compare/contrast, and define. Knowing what the prompt is asking will lead you to your purpose for writing the essay as well as the type of writing the prompt assesses.
Remembering this simple acronym can help writers create a proficient essay. R stands for your role as a writer. Are you writing as yourself or as if you were another person or character? Consider who is doing the talking in your writing piece. Your audience is the A. An essay can look very different if you are writing to a friend versus writing to the President of the United States. The format (F) your writing takes may be determined by the prompt as well. Is it asking you to write a letter, an essay, a short answer, or an article? Be certain to pay attention to the task (T), as mentioned above for the purpose of your writing. Finally, use strong (S) keywords. Highlight or underline keywords directly in the prompt itself and use them to construct your thesis.
Use a graphic organizer to plan.
Break the prompt into manageable parts, particularly if the prompt is asking you to do more than one thing. Use a graphic organizer as a literacy tool to plan out your paragraphs considering each part of the prompt. Choose a graphic organizer that coincides with the type of prompt. For example, you may choose a venn diagram for an expository compare/contrast prompt or an outline graphic organizer for a persuasive prompt, putting the most important points first. Plan the flow of your answer, making sure that what is written first leads naturally into your second point and jot down the keywords you intend to use for each part. You must have at least two pieces of evidence to support your thesis.
After students have deconstructed the writing prompt, planned, and written their answers, be sure to teach them to reread what they have written, checking that the prompt question has been answered. By teaching these strategies, your writers will begin to understand the writing prompts they are given and will be able to build successful responses.