5 Writing Instruction Fundamentals for Success on Next-Generation Assessments
Get ready to say goodbye to standardized bubble tests completed with a #2 pencil. Computer-based next-generation assessments, which measure students’ mastery of the Common Core, are upping the ante.
Why Writing Skills Matter Now More Than Ever
With the new PARCC and SBAC assessments on the horizon, educators are concerned about whether their students will be adequately prepared—especially when it comes to writing. Knowing the right answer will no longer be sufficient. Students must be able to explain why that answer is correct—and their ability to do so is captured through their writing skills.
Because writing is viewed as a skill that tests higher-order thinking and comprehension, both the PARCC and SBAC assessments incorporate writing to measure students’ ability to
- respond to stimuli texts (and videos) and to synthesize answers using multiple sources.
- explain their reasoning on math questions.
- demonstrate comprehension on the reading portion of ELA assessment.
How to Prepare Your Students for Success
If you’re concerned about whether your students’ writing skills are sufficient for success on next-generation assessments, prepare them by incorporating these fundamental elements into your writing instruction:
- Familiarize students with the Common Core text types: (Yes, we’re starting with the obvious here.) Ensure that they’re well-versed with the Narrative, Informative/Explanatory, and Argument/Opinion text types. Help them understand the relationship between informative and explanatory writing. Make sure they understand how persuasion differs from argumentation and how expository structures function within multiple text types.
- Model effective writing: Provide model texts for a variety of purposes and audiences to illustrate a breadth of competent writing aligned to the Common Core.
- Incorporate writing rubrics: Help students understand exactly what is required from their writing and offer opportunities for self- and peer-evaluation based on writing rubrics.
- Provide practice tests: Increasing students’ familiarity with practice tests modeled on the new PARCC and SBAC assessments will help them gain confidence in their ability to effectively demonstrate their writing skills.
- Integrate writing across the curriculum: Although ELA teachers take the lead in writing instruction—ideally using the six traits to negotiate the writing process within a writing workshop framework—writing skills should be practiced in every content area. Science, math, and social studies teachers may wish to focus primarily upon the trait that supports content-area knowledge (ideas), the trait that demonstrates relationships between facts and concepts (organization), and the trait that emphasizes domain-specific language (word choice).
Bonus Tip: To further strengthen your writing instruction, take advantage of the excellent (and free) resources—such as graphic organizers and reference materials—at http://sfw.z-b.com.