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Strategies for Creating Text-Based Writing Prompts?

I was also recently in Idaho working with a group of program directors and teachers on the CCR Standards. We focused on the key advances that define the CCR Standards for ELA/Literacy. The hardest work of the day was developing text-based writing prompts that build knowledge and develop writing skills. Creating writing prompts that consolidate students’ understanding of complex texts is challenging work. In order to ensure that the prompt results in the kind of response we anticipate, we talked about answering the prompt ourselves before assigning it to students. Does anyone have any other strategies for developing text-based writing prompts to share?

Thanks!

Jane

Comments

Susan Finn Miller's picture
One hundred

Hi Jane, Thanks for this great question. I think most of us would agree that supporting learners to develop effective writing skills is one of the greatest challenges we teachers face. Learning to write well is hard work. I think you have a great idea to answer the prompt first to be sure it aligns with your instructional goals.

For me, what has been helpful is looking closely at the anchor and the level descriptors in the standards. For instance, if the goal is to have students write an argument essay (Writing Anchor 1), I want to make it clear to learners that they need to use "valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence." At Level C, learners specifically need to logically order their reasons and support their reasons with "facts and details". They need to use words and phrases that link their opinion and reasons such as consequently and specifically. They also need to "provide a concluding statement related to the opinion presented."

It is useful to include these details in a rubric, so that learners understand what is expected. I would also want to provide them with models that illustrate these particulars so they can see what strong writing looks like. We spend some time in class discussing each of the elements in the standard and identify how the model essay addresses those elements.

I would love to hear more from members on this valuable topic.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Teaching & Learning CoP

JRoy's picture
Ten

Great ideas, Susan! I agree that it's important to include the language of the standards in the assignment prompt and rubrics so that expectations are clear. Thanks for sharing.

Jane

 

 

 

 

Kathy_Tracey's picture
One hundred

Colleagues,

I often have my students verbally discuss topics. Sometimes, these debates get very animated. After the discussion, students reflect on the highlights and identify the points that classmates made that we're thought provoking.

Giving students time to discuss before writing assists in better writing and improved responses.

Have any of you combined debates with prompts? If so, how do you introduce topics and what successes do you see?

Kathy Tracey

JRoy's picture
Ten

Thanks for sharing, Kathy. Having students discuss their ideas before writing is so important. This is particularly effective for English language learners. I'd love to hear about combining debates and writing prompts, too. Great idea!

Jane

 

 

Susan Finn Miller's picture
One hundred

Hello Jane, Kathy and all, I so agree that giving learners time to think first and to jot some pre writing ideas and then talk with one another are all beneficial steps. They can ask each other questions and offer comments . As you suggest, Jane, having time for thinking, pre writing, and conversation are especially important for English learners, but these pre writing steps are useful for all learners.

It would be great to hear from other writing teachers on this thread!

By the way, please consider joining us for an upcoming webinar 12/7 and discussion 12/10-11 with Dr. Rebeca Fernandez who will be presenting on "Writing as a Basis for Reading and So Much More."

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition and Teaching & Learning CoPs

Rachel Baron's picture
One hundred

This isn't exactly about writing prompts because I often use variations on the GED or HiSET prompts. They aren't necessarily the best, but students need to learn what they look like and how they're expected to respond to them. Instead of changing the prompt, I tend to scaffold the activities that lead up to it.

One method that I have found useful is to have students use graphic organizers to think about the features of the text that you want them to notice. For an argument, for example, I might have students write the author's main points in the left-hand column of a table and the corresponding evidence in the right-hand column. Sometimes I will also use this as a pre-writing activity, where students will write their own points in the left column and put the corresponding evidence in the right-hand column. This allows students to get their ideas in order without worrying about the technicalities of writing (grammar, vocabulary, punctuation, etc...). We can talk about whether the student has relevant and sufficient support for each point before the actual writing begins.

Lynne Alexander's picture
First

I would love to have copies of the graphic organizers to use in my GED classes ? Any suggestions as to where we could see or download them ?

Susan Finn Miller's picture
One hundred

Hello Lynne, Thanks for your inquiry. There are lots of websites that feature free downloadable graphic organizers. Here are a couple Education Place and Ed Helper.

Members, if you have other favorite sites for graphic organizers, please let us know.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Teaching & Learning CoP

Rachel Baron's picture
One hundred

Hi Lynne,

I usually just use the table-making capability in Microsoft Word to make these organizers. For example:

Arguments in favor of legalizing medical marijuana Arguments against legalizing medical marijuana

 

 

 

 

 

Or possibly:

My points about legalizing medical marijuana (either in favor or against) Evidence from the articles to back up my points (include paragraph numbers)

 

 

 

 

 

Just by changing the heading, it's possible to do a wide variety of things with just a simple two- or three-column table.