the purpose of the essay question:

We then worked in groups to "peer edit" the essays. In groups of four, each student had a "job" to do in reviewing the other group members' essays. One student checked for spelling, one for grammar, and one for vocabulary. The vocabulary checker read the essay to highlight areas where the author could use more appropriate or exciting vocabulary. I gave the students the example of the overuse of the word "good." For example, "My mother is a really good person. She cooks good food and she is a good friend to many people." The students talked about different words that could be used besides "good" in the sentences — such as kind, wonderful, great, delicious, excellent, helpful, etc. The peer editors made their marks and suggestions, but the author did not have to accept them if they didn't agree. Next, the students did a re-write to create their second draft.

(Main ideas and Major supporting points)

Read the questions very carefully at least 2 or 3 times.

The Literacy Reference Group (2017, para. 10) finds that more than 60% of the students who were assessed on their literacy scale made errors in their punctuation.

Circle all the keywords in the question.

My ELL students often passed the reading and math tests, but would have to take the writing test more than once to pass. They had a lot of anxiety around writing, and the state writing exam was like a monster growing in the room as the test date neared. After talking about their fears, the students and I worked together to develop a deeper understanding of the writing test requirements and how to write a solid five paragraph essay. I will outline the process in this article.

Decide if you need to write a 1-paragraph or a multi-paragraph answer.

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Through this process students discovered that one of the most important categories to be scored on the writing test was organization. If the essay response was well-organized and there were mechanical errors, but they didn't detract from the meaning, the students would be given a passing score. This was surprising to many students, who had largely focused on spelling, grammar, and mechanics, thinking they needed to improve their English language skills in order to pass. Now we could identify what they had learned, and we had a place to start our essay writing work.

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I had the students analyze a simple five-paragraph sample essay to begin to understand the parts of an organized essay. The writing sample (see sample in hotlinks) had a basic beginning paragraph that stated the main idea with three supporting points. Here is an example:

Write a brief outline of all the points you want to mention in your answer.

Peer editing checklist for student use from Time Savers for Teachers.

In its research project, the Literacy Foundation (2014, p. 167) argues that “common punctuation errors cause problems with meaning-making in student writing”.

Read over your answer again and check if all the main ideas have been included.

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When you have sorted out the position you will take in your essay, you will write a number of paragraphs to provide support for your stance. It is also equally valuable to find information that does not support your stance and argue against those opposite points of view. Statements that you use to do this can follow a simple pattern:

Sample outline with links to examples from the Bucks Community College website.

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First, it was important that the students understand what the writing test score meant and how points were assigned. I started by writing a (what I know, what I want to know, what I learned) on the board, and then asked the students to complete the first part of the chart by filling in what they already knew about the state writing test. They knew the basics, such as, "You need a 3 to pass" or "It's really hard," but other than that, the students didn't have a lot of information. Together we brainstormed many questions to fill in the second part of the K-W-L chart: what they wanted/needed to know in order to pass the test.