Structuring Essays for Exams
Increasingly, students are required to demonstrate proficiency in planning, writing, and revising an essay during high stakes tests. As students prepare for such tests, practicing skills related to structure may improve performance on such tests. This week, we offer tips to improve the structure of essays for High Stakes Testing.
This Week's Tips
Teach Students to Read Essay Test Prompts Critically (Monday)
Teach students to read prompts critically to discover the purpose and intended audience for writing assignments. They should note any specific limitations. A careful and incisive reading of the prompt will tell students whether to persuade, explain, state an opinion, or describe. Additionally, students should ascertain from reading the prompt if there are any specific limitations concerning length and time. Practice critical reading of the practice test prompts in the download.
Practice Prewriting for Essay Tests (Tuesday)
Help students improve essay-writing skills by practicing the first step of process writing: prewriting. Practice brainstorming and organizing ideas with students repeatedly until they become proficient at responding to a prompt with several potential ideas. Continue to practice until students can select at least one idea and informally brainstorm several details that build into the main idea. Download and practice prewriting with the cluster diagram.
Practice Writing Openers for Essay Tests (Wednesday)
Practice writing strong opening paragraphs that fulfill two goals: clearly stating what the essay will be about while simultaneously attracting the attention of the audience. Questions, definitions, anecdotes, examples—each technique should be attempted as students practice writing opening paragraphs.
Practice Writing Body Paragraphs for Essay Tests (Thursday)
Practice writing essay bodies that fulfill the purpose of the prompt using an organizational pattern. Compare/contrast, advantages/disadvantages, logical arguments, points of description—students should match an organizational pattern to the purpose stated in the opening paragraph. Using Venn diagrams, power lists, and even form outlining builds scaffolding for the middle of the essay.
Practice Writing Conclusions for Essay Tests (Friday)
Writing an effective conclusion is difficult for many students. Teach your students to refer to the purpose of the essay again before attempting to write a conclusion. After carefully considering the purpose, students can then determine how to approach the final paragraph. A final, forceful point? A summary of an opinion? A description of the impact of an event? An effective conclusion responds to the purpose of the essay with clarity and power. Offer students examples of effective essays, without the conclusions, and allow them to practice writing effective conclusions.