Lesson 4: Help Your Class Do It
Let's Put This All Together
In this final lesson we will compile a list of resources that will help you get your students writing just like you. We will discuss how this information should be presented in your classroom and then make sure that you have everything that you need in order to make this program work in your classroom.
How Can I Teach This to Kids?
This is an easy question to answer. The best way to learn something is to do it yourself and that is what you have just done. You have just taken an online version of what you will implement in your classroom. Lets outline the sequence of events and we'll discuss any minor tweaks you might need to make for your students.
1. Learn the Basics - Students need to learn what these responses look like. Instead of throwing them into the fire, show them some exemplar answers. Have the students label all the good aspects of writing that they see. Have the students go through the question and verify that the entire question and all its parts were answered. Teach the 2 point rubric and 4 point rubric separately. They are similar, but still different and therefore should be taught separate.
2. Learn the Rubrics - More importantly than any acronyms or trick, the students need to truly understand how they will be assessed. Without knowledge of the rubric, expect your students to come up short when answering text response questions. Display the rubric on your front board and give the students some example answers. You and your students can spend some time discussing what scores certain answered received. Make them justify all their decisions with evidence from the rubric.
3. Teach Them to Grade - If your students can grade an answer, they can most certainly write their own answer. Even better than that, after a student writes an answer, they should be able to look at their own work and decide if they believe their own work scored a top grade. If it didn't then they need to go back and add what is missing. Give students a passage with a question. Remove all the names from the answers and have the students spend time grading each others work. As they continue to learn the rubric and get experience grading responses this will continue to cement the rubric and the scoring process in the minds of your students. You may want to consider even taking low scoring answers and having the whole class rewrite them so they would than score a 2 or a 4.
4. Give Them Help - Now is the step where you finally give your students helpful pointers to be a better writer. Tricks like "Use your brain to make the claim" and "2 + 1 Details" are great ways to get your students becoming stronger writers. These tricks and tips are also confidence boosters. No student should score a zero ever! That is great news, and the students should feel good going into a testing situation. You will begin to see that these tips just become easier and easier with the understanding of the rubric as a foundation skill. All of the tips you give to your writer should always be explained in a way that shows them how this new tip will help them score higher. "Restating the sentence is a great way to make sure you have a good strong claim in your answer." "By adding a third detail to your writing, you have a back up detail in case one of your first two is wrong. This way you can still make a mistake and score a 2!"
5. Give Them Confidence - This was not a lesson but is critically important. Tests are stressful. Many students have serious test anxiety. Encouraging students to have a positive attitude and high effort are the two most important things that you can give them for test day. You are a good teacher. They have been adequately prepared. They will be successful. This message is important for any and all students regardless of their ability level. They may not all pass the test, but if they tried as hard as they possibly could have, how can we be upset with that?
Critically Important Resources
The following resources may be useful to you when working through this unit with your students.
engageNY.org - If you are a testing grade teacher in New York State you probably know this website. This website, and specifically the link provided, has the rubrics (which you cannot live without) for each grade level all the way up through 8th grade as well as sample student answers and explanations as to why certain things were scored the way they were.
Readworks.org - Readworks is a free site that has an incredible amount of reading passages for all grade level. If you need to differentiate your instruction for this unit, this will help. Regardless of what grade you are teaching, there are reading passages here for your students. You will need lots of short reading passages, and your classroom library may not provide everything you are looking for.
THE END (Thank you for taking this mini-course!)
Back to the beginning: Written Response to Text