I recently shared a picture on my Instagram page showing students engaged in an activity to prepare for our District Writing Test. It was met with several inquiries so I wanted to take the time to share what I did and how it turned out. It proved to be a great (and somewhat challenging) learning experience for students. I partnered up with two other staff members who teach 7th grade ELA. We looked at the needs of our students and divided them based on what we felt would be most beneficial for the students to have further practice on before the upcoming District Assessment.
The other 7th grade ELA teacher created an enrichment activity on how to cite and elaborate evidence used in writing, the Special Education push-in teacher taught a lesson on how to effectively read the writing prompts (how do I know what I’m supposed to be writing) and I took the students we felt confident could already pass the test.
Because the students in my group were already successful in their writing, I wanted to provide students with an opportunity to develop writing skills by analyzing student essays. I created a lesson that asked students to read three pieces of work on the same topic then students worked in pairs backwards to come up with the original writing prompt for papers they read. The goal was for them to learn from other writers, as well as, look at how well each piece of writing addressed the prompt given. In theory, if the write scored well, students should be able to explain the original writing prompt.
I searched popular sites that offer student work samples such as Smarter Balanced, Six Traits, SAT and ACT sites. I chose three different writing prompts and then printed off multiple essays of each prompt in varying levels of accomplishment (some high, some low).
I created three stations for students to rotate through and then they worked in pairs to read and discuss the three essays and write out what they believed the prompt to have been.
Once the pair had read, discussed and written the prompt, I then gave them a copy of the original writing prompt for the essays they read. Students compared their written prompt with the original and discussed how close they came to the original or what the writer could have changed or included that would have more clearly addressed the original prompt. Some students got really close to the writing prompt and some had a difficult time because of the “quality” of the writing.
This activity was a huge success and made for some great academic discussions as students not only talked about the prompt, they also discussed the writing. Because they had three papers on the same topic, student conversations amongst my successful writers naturally included a discussion on which paper was better and why. I was pleased to hear students refer to the rubric as that is something we’ve been working on learning for several weeks.
I’d love to know if you have tried something like this before?