Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

Literacy Center Rotations

Rotations for Literacy Centers

Literacy Center Rotations

More and more, teachers are seeing the value of using literacy centers (or stations, if you prefer) and the literacy center research certainly supports the use of small groups and centers in the classroom. However, there are certain challenges to setting up effective literacy centers. Many teachers explore the option, or even try to initiative centers, but quickly get frustrated and give up. Many do so because of behavioral issues, but others do so because of organizational problems. My take is that both go hand in hand.

I’m writing this article because every teacher has unique needs regarding setting up their own literacy centers. Setting up workable literacy center rotations to meet those needs can be challenging, especially for the spatially-impaired, like me. For this article, rotations refers to which literacy centers students move and when. Obviously, you can’t have all of your kids moving to the same literacy station at the same time. Following are rotation limitations, rotation options, and rotation transitions to make your literacy center planning easier. Of course, these are not the only options, but others can certainly be modified from the ones I will provide. Plus, clink on each link to find colorful visuals for each rotation option.

Rotation Limitations


With respect to instructional time, I’ve never heard a teacher complain about having “way too much time in the day” to teach. This is especially true with respect to literacy centers (or stations). Instructional decisions are always reductive. In choosing to do literacy centers, you are choosing not to do another instructional approach or learning activity. The question will be how much time you are able to devote to literacy centers.

Most teachers opt for 20-minute literacy centers. This seems to be about the length of time students can handle independent work and the amount of time teachers usually spend doing guided reading or other teacher-led activities for literacy centers. To facilitate rotations, this means that the total amount of class time devoted to literacy centers would be 40, 60, 80, or 120 minutes. This would be true for both elementary and secondary teachers (the latter depending upon traditional for the 40 or 60 and block for the the 80 or 120 minute schedules).

Class and Group Size

Most educational researchers and teachers find that groups of 3-6 students are the ideal size for collaborative small groups, such as for literacy centers. With a class size between 20-26 for elementary teachers, 4, 6, or 8 groups will work. With a class size between 26-40 for secondary teachers, 6 or 8 groups will work.

Number of Days

Generally speaking, the fewer number of days doing literacy centers requires more rotations. Conversely, more days alloted to literacy centers permits fewer rotations.

Number and Types of Literacy Centers

As with the number of days, more literacy centers require more days and more rotations. The rotation options below show from 4-10 literacy centers. These rotation options provide guide choices. In other words, students are required to rotate to specific centers, but have limited choices of lessons or activities within each center.  Some teachers have set up more centers if free choice is permitted.

Additionally, if teachers wish to do guided reading or other teacher-led activities for literacy centers, rotation options will be limited because the teacher becomes, in effect, a literacy center herself. You can’t be everywhere at once! Three guided reading options are provided in the following rotations. One includes *guided reading for 20 minutes per day, four days per week; another includes **guided reading for 20 minutes per day, two days per week; one more includes ***guided reading for 10 minutes per day, four days per week.

Rotation Options

  • 40 minutes
  • 60 minutes
  • 80 minutes
  • 100 minutes

Check out these 10 Literacy Center Rotations

Rotation Transitions

Before launching literacy centers in your classroom, I strongly suggest practicing rotation transitions. Make sure to clearly post or display rotation transitions for student reference. Provide some form of signal, such as a chime, lights on or off, or clap-clap back to announce movement. Make sure that the clock is visible so the students, or an assigned task manager,  can monitor the time for each center lesson or activity and help the group wrap-up to provide a quick and quiet transition. Also practice set-up, tear-down, and clean-up procedures.

Students love to be timed and positive reinforcements work well to teach time management skills.

The following programs utilize small groups for “second chance” phonemic awareness and phonics lessons:

Intervention Program Science of Reading

The Science of Reading Intervention Program

The Science of Reading Intervention Program: Word Recognition includes explicit, scripted instruction and practice with the 5 Daily Google Slide Activities every reading intervention student needs: 1. Phonemic Awareness and Morphology 2. Blending, Segmenting, and Spelling 3. Sounds and Spellings (including handwriting) 4. Heart Words Practice 5. Sam and Friends Phonics Books (decodables). Plus, digital and printable sound wall cards and speech articulation songs. Print versions are available for all activities. First Half of the Year Program (55 minutes-per-day, 18 weeks)

The Science of Reading Intervention Program: Language Comprehension resources are designed for students who have completed the word recognition program or have demonstrated basic mastery of the alphabetic code and can read with some degree of fluency. The program features the 5 Weekly Language Comprehension Activities: 1. Background Knowledge Mentor Texts 2. Academic Language, Greek and Latin Morphology, Figures of Speech, Connotations, Multiple Meaning Words 3. Syntax in Reading 4. Reading Comprehension Strategies 5. Literacy Knowledge (Narrative and Expository). Second Half of the Year Program (30 minutes-per-day, 18 weeks)

The Science of Reading Intervention Program: Assessment-based Instruction provides diagnostically-based “second chance” instructional resources. The program includes 13 comprehensive assessments and matching instructional resources to fill in the yet-to-be-mastered gaps in phonemic awareness, alphabetic awareness, phonics, fluency (with YouTube modeled readings), Heart Words and Phonics Games, spelling patterns, grammar, usage, and mechanics, syllabication and morphology, executive function shills. Second Half of the Year Program (25 minutes-per-day, 18 weeks)

The Science of Reading Intervention Program BUNDLE  includes all 3 program components for the comprehensive, state-of-the-art (and science) grades 4-adult full-year program. Scripted, easy-to-teach, no prep, no need for time-consuming (albeit valuable) LETRS training or O-G certification… Learn as you teach and get results NOW for your students. Print to speech with plenty of speech to print instructional components.

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How to Teach Rhetorical Stance

Teachers can help students practice the elements of Rhetorical Stance: voice, audience, purpose, and form. Learning these elements will enable students to flexibly address any writing assignment with dexterity and flair. Students need to be able to adjust their writing to a wide variety of genre in order to communicate effectively.

Find clear models of the elements of rhetorical stance and share these with your students. Help students to identify each of the elements in the model. Discuss how each interacts with the others. Make sure to use a wide variety of models.

Then, have students mimic the voice, audience, purpose, and form of the model to respond to an engaging writing prompt. Share their creative triumphs and correct shortcomings.

Voice—Some would define voice at that intangible which makes one’s writing unique, personal, and honest. I define voice a bit more globally, encompassing style, point of view, tone, and diction (word choice). Students need to practice mimicking other voices to refine their own voices. Additionally, students need to be able to manipulate their voices to best suit the audience, purpose, and form. Choose student models to share that will broaden your students’ understanding of voice and encourage students to mimic these examples and the voices of other writers. Check out another article I have written, titled “How to Develop Voice in Student Writing” for plenty of instructional strategies. Why not introduce a video clip of Martin Luther King, Jr. to inspire students to mimic his poetic, emotional, and hopeful voice prior to a relevant quick write?

Audience—Students need to understand that all writing is interactive communication. The other is the writer, himself, as reader and any others with whom the writer shares the work. Students all too frequently learn to write to the teacher as their exclusive audience. This practice tends to de-personalize student writing and limit development of voice. Choose student models to share that use a voice that engages and is particularly appropriate to the audience. Ask students to identify which parts of the writing response specifically address the defined audience and why. Why not select a class of third graders as an audience to encourage controlled vocabulary, brevity, and appropriate word choice?

Purpose—My comprehensive essay curriculum, TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE, uses eight key writing direction words (describe, explain, discuss, compare-contrast, analyze, persuade, justify, and evaluate) as the action words of each writing prompt in leveled writing strategy worksheets. These same writing direction words are used on a rotating basis (eight times each) as the purpose components in the 64 Rhetorical Stance Quick Writes. Check out the attached example of a Rhetorical Stance Quick Write and use to guide your instruction in the elements of rhetorical stance. Why not have your students describe the ideal world that they hope to live in as adults?

Form—Although the academic essay becomes the predominate form of composition beginning in the intermediate elementary years and continuing through college, facility in other writing forms is certainly necessary to develop voice, writing fluency, and writing dexterity. Additionally, writing practice using a variety of forms will improve reading comprehension across a wide variety of genres. Use a wide variety of form, from anecdotes to classified ads to help students adjust their writing form and voice to the purpose of the writing and their audience. Why not mimic the rhetorical style, including the parallel “I have a dream” refrains from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a two minute speech?


Teaching Essays


The author’s TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE includes the three printable and digital resources students need to master the CCSS W.1 argumentative and W.2 informational/explanatory essays. Each no-prep resource allows students to work at their own paces via mastery learning. How to Teach Essays includes 42 skill-based essay strategy worksheets (fillable PDFs and 62 Google slides), beginning with simple 3-word paragraphs and proceeding step-by-step to complex multi-paragraph essays. One skill builds upon another. The Essay Skills Worksheets include 97 worksheets (printables and 97 Google slides) to help teachers differentiate writing instruction with both remedial and advanced writing skills. The Eight Writing Process Essays (printables and 170 Google slides) each feature an on-demand diagnostic essay assessment, writing prompt with connected reading, brainstorming, graphic organizer, response, revision, and editing activities. Plus, each essay includes a detailed analytical (not holistic) rubric for assessment-based learning.

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Learning Vocabulary from Independent Reading

Grades 4-8 Comprehensive Vocabulary

Comprehensive Vocabulary

Research has debunked the word list method of vocabulary instruction. The give-them-twenty-words-on-Monday-and-test-on-Friday approach is as American as apple pie, but is also highly inefficient. The English lexicon of over 800,000 words is just too vast to rely on rote memory of individual words. I suggested that the two most efficient methods of vocabulary instruction consist of 1. wide reading with refined context clues strategies and 2. word part memorization. This article will discuss how we learn vocabulary from independent reading.

To understand how we learn vocabulary, it is helpful to examine how children build their bank of words through oral vocabulary acquisition. By age five, children have gained up to a 10,000 word vocabulary including common inflections such as suffixes. How did children who may only have one year of pre-school and one year of kindergarten gain such an extensive vocabulary? Exposure and practice. Children are bombarded with oral language from parent “oohs and ahs” to simple conversations to the background noises and words of daily life. In homes that are rich in communication, children before the age of four have heard 45 million words. In contrast, in homes that do not provide rich communication, children before the age of four have heard only 13 million words (Hart and Risley 1996).

Noam Chomsky’s theory of an innate universal grammar explains how children are able to apply words into meaningful phrases and sentence structures in an efficient manner. Children fit new words into the morphological (meaning) and syntactical (grammatical) context of old words and so language acquisition compounds. New words are not learned in isolation, but in the context of what has been previously mastered and practiced. But why do children learn words so quickly while adolescents and children learn words at such a slower rate? Is it because “you can’t teach a dog new tricks” or a change in brain development? No. Primarily the reasons are exposure and practice.

After the first 10,000 words, the rest are rare words, and these play a critical role in academic reading. The utility of our academic vocabulary is determined not by the first 10,000 words, but by how many of the rare words we understand (Hart and Risley 1996). The next 20,000 words learned by most college-educated adults takes about twenty years to acquire. Exposure to and practice of more sophisticated words is much less frequent than the “meat and potatoes” words of childhood. A brief example may be helpful. A child learns the word hungry at a very early age. The word has two syllables and is phonetically regular. A late teen or early adult may learn the word famished. The word has two syllables and is phonetically regular. The difference in word acquisition between hungry and famished is influenced by exposure. A child first hears the word hungry early in life and most every day thereafter from parents or from television. An adult may hear or read the word famished once every few months. The difference in word acquisition between hungry and famished is also influenced by practice. The word hungry is a high utility word. Both children and adults say this word often in all of its inflected forms. The word famished is just not said as often.

So, beyond the first 10,000 words of life, do we continue to learn most of our vocabulary through skillful listening? No. A few interesting facts will prove this point. The first 1,000 words acquired by children constitute the vast majority of words used by and heard by even the most educated adults on a daily basis. Watching and listening to thirty minutes of Sesame Street exposes the viewer to an average of only one word beyond the highest frequency 1,000 words. Watching and listening to the nightly news for the same amount of time exposes to viewer to only nineteen of these key words (adapted from Hayes and Athens 1988).

However, in contrast, reading provides a much higher exposure to words beyond the most frequently used 1,000 words. For example, reading a challenging comic book for thirty minutes exposes the reader to fifty-three of these words. Reading a challenging book for the same amount of time exposes a reader to seventy-five. So, reading challenging text certainly provides a greater opportunity to expand one’s vocabulary through exposure and practice than does listening alone.

Now, how can we make wide reading of challenging text more efficient for vocabulary acquisition? First of all, because exposure to the right words is so critical, it is essential to carefully choose reading text for optimal practice. According to reading specialists, reading text that has 5% unknown words should be our target reading text to maximize vocabulary acquisition. Readers can maintain good comprehension while exposing themselves to 300 unknown words in thirty minutes of reading. This assumes an average reading rate of 200 words per minute with 6,000 words read in thirty minutes, of which 5% unknown words would be 300. Assuming that a reader would “naturally” acquire 5% of these unknown words via unrefined use of context clues, the reader would have a net gain of 15 new words from the reading session. Thus, four days of thirty minutes (two hours) reading practice would better a reader’s vocabulary by 60 words—substantially better than acquiring 20 new words each week by memorizing a list of words. Also, the prospect of additional practice of these words is much higher than that of the random word list memorized for the Friday test.

How can you pick a book to read that has 5% unknown words? Choose a book of any genre and count the number of words on any complete page found near the beginning of the book and multiply that number by 3. Read a page toward the beginning of the book, counting the number of unknown words. A good guideline would be “if you can’t define it with a synonym, antonym, or example,” it is unknown. Then, read a page near the middle of the book and continue the count. Finally, read a page near the end of the book and finish the count. Divide the total number of unknown words by the total number of words found on the three pages. The result will be the percentage of unknown words. Anything within the 4-6% range is acceptable. For example, a reader counts the number of words on a page and arrives at 225. 225 x 3 = 750. After reading the three pages, the amount of unknown words totals 30. 30.00 divided by 750 = .05, or 5%. Check out these independent reading resources to help you develop a model independent reading program.

Additionally, reading specialists would argue that the 5% retention rate can be doubled to 10% by applying refined context clue strategies. Doubling the number of words acquired from thirty minutes reading each day would produce a net gain of 30 new words from each reading session or 120 words each week, considering four such sessions. 120 words per week, multiplied by 33 weeks in a school year produces 3960 new words in a school year—surpassing the target for the 3,000 new words that reading specialists suggest are necessary to make grade level growth in vocabulary development.

In order to refine context clue strategies, readers need to learn the types of context clues that work most often to help readers figure out unknown words. By examining surrounding sentence and word clues according to these context clue categories, more unknown words can be figured out. So, grab a second cup of coffee for the next article, Part III, and learn how to teach the refined context clue strategies that will double the amount of words that readers acquire through reading challenging text.


For full-year vocabulary programs which include multiple meaning words (L.4.a.), Greek and Latin morphology with Morphology Walls (L.4.a.), figures of speech (L.5.a.), words with special relationships (L.5.b.), words with connotative meanings (L.5.c.), and academic language words (L.6.0), check out the assessment-based grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Comprehensive Vocabulary.

Get the Grades 4,5,6,7,8 Vocabulary Sequence of Instruction FREE Resource:

Get the Greek and Latin Morphology Walls FREE Resource:

Get the Diagnostic Academic Language Assessment FREE Resource:

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Why Johnny Can’t Write

“Johnny is a creative story-writer, but he can’t write an essay to save his life.” Does this ring true for your child or student?

Johnny has had some good writing instruction. He can recite the steps of The Writing Process from the posters he has seen in every classroom throughout his elementary school years. He knows all about Writers Workshop. He would know what to expect if the teacher had written “Writers Conferences” or “Response Groups” on the white board as parts of her daily lesson plans. Johnny’s writing portfolio is chalk full of fanciful stories and writing pieces in the sensory/descriptive or imaginative/narrative writing domains. He has been encouraged to unleash his creative mind-although that story that he wrote last year about the student boycott of the cafeteria may have been a bit too creative for the principal’s tastes.

However, if you give Johnny a writing prompt, asking him to “Compare and contrast the cultural roles of women in Athens and Sparta,” sixth grade writing paralysis would surely set in. Or worse yet, Johnny might begin his essay with “Once upon a time in a far-away land called Greece, two young women from Athens and Sparta…” His difficulties would, no doubt, increase if this were a timed assessment.

Unfortunately, most of the writing that Johnny will need to complete throughout his academic and work careers will not take advantage of his story-writing experience. Instead, most of what Johnny will be required to compose will be some form of writing that informs or convinces his reader. Additionally, most of his writing will be subject to some kind of time constraint. Johnny has just not had the instruction and practice in this kind of writing. His college professors probably will not hand him a “blue book,” tell him to write a story of his own choice, and then turn it in after multiple revisions when his final draft has been published and properly illustrated.

Students need to learn how to write structured essays designed to inform and convince their teachers and professors. But how do you transform a creative, non-linear thinker like Johnny into an organized and persuasive writer? Take the mystery out of essays by replacing the confusing terminology of thesis statements, topic sentences, concrete details, and commentary with simple numerical values that reflect the hierarchy of effective essay structure. For example, assign a “1” to introductory strategies, a “2” to the thesis statement, a “3” to the topic sentence, a “4” to the concrete detail, a “5” to the commentary, and a “6” to the conclusion strategies. Telling a student that a “5” is needed to support a “4,” which supports a “3” is much more intuitive-and students get it! Teach structural variety by having students write 3-4-5-4-5 paragraphs and revise with 3-4-5-5-4-5-5 paragraphs. Have students analyze text structure by numerically coding their science book or a newspaper editorial. Use this approach to develop sequenced writing skills, incorporating different grammatical structures and sentence structure.

Find 8 complete writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informational-explanatory) with accompanying readings, 42 sequenced writing strategy worksheets, 64 sentence revision lessons, additional remedial worksheets, writing fluency and skill lessons, posters, and editing resources in TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE. Also get the e-comments download of 438 writing comments to improve written response and student revisions.

Pennington Publishing's TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE



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Why Johnny Can’t Use Good Grammar

Some years back, the principal walked into my room while my student teacher was delivering a lesson. After a few minutes, the principal signaled me to step outside. “I would never hire Johnny to work at my school,” he said. Shocked, I asked him why. “On the board, he has a misplaced comma, and he ended a sentence with a preposition.” Sounds quite harsh, doesn’t it? That principal certainly had high expectations of his teachers.

Not every educated adult places the same level of importance regarding the proper use of grammar and mechanics as does that principal. However, many do. Proper grammar is a critically important tool for success in school, work, and life. We are judged, sometimes quite severely, by the words we use and the way we use them in both our speaking and writing. Misused grammar betrays us. The way we talk and write reflects our background, education, and ability to communicate. So what are the myths and realities of grammar instruction and most importantly, how can we improve student grammar?

The Five Myths of Grammar Instruction

1. Grammar is acquired naturally; it does not need to be taught. Oral language is not always an efficient teacher. In fact, it can be quite a mixed bag. For every proper modeling of the pronoun in the sentence: It is I, students hear at least five models of the incorrect: It is me. Grammar as it is caught must be complemented by a grammar that is taught.

2. Grammar is a meaningless collection of rules-most of which don’t work half the time. This myth may have developed from mindless “drill and kill” grammatical exercises with no application to real writing. Actually, our English grammar is remarkably flexible and consistent.

3. Grammar cannot be learned by students with some learning styles or disabilities. While it may be true that students learn language differently, at different rates, and vary in proficiency, there has been no research to show that some students cannot learn grammar.

4. English grammar cannot be learned by second language learners. Some teachers think that students who speak other languages get confused between the primary language and English grammars. The research proves otherwise. Intuitively, many of us have significantly increased our own knowledge of English grammar by taking a foreign language.

5. Reading and writing a lot will improve grammar. Reading grammatically rich literature is wonderful, but learning is not passive and does not come by osmosis. Writing poorly may, indeed, reinforce poor grammatical usage.

How should we teach grammar to Johnny?  Don’t waste time teaching Johnny what he already knows. Find out what he does not know and target these areas of grammatical deficits. Use a good diagnostic assessment. Have Johnny practice those weaknesses with specific skill worksheets.

Teach the language of grammar and recognition of the common grammatical structures. Johnny has to know what a prepositional phrase is and how to know one when he sees one. In fact, over 30% of academic writing is composed of this grammatical form. Maybe learning “Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Function” on Sesame Street® was not such a bad idea after all. Teach grammar in the context of writing. Using the common grammatical structures, have Johnny begin half of his written sentences with different sentence openers. This practice serves two purposes: It teaches recognition and manipulation of grammatical structures and it improves sentence variety.


Teaching Grammar and Mechanics for Grades 4-High School

Teaching Grammar and Mechanics Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and High School Programs

I’m Mark Pennington, author of the full-year interactive grammar notebooks,  grammar literacy centers, and the traditional grade-level 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and high school Teaching Grammar and Mechanics programs. Teaching Grammar and Mechanics includes 56 (64 for high school) interactive language conventions lessons,  designed for twice-per-week direct instruction in the grade-level grammar, usage, and mechanics standards. The scripted lessons (perfect for the grammatically-challenged teacher) are formatted for classroom display. Standards review, definitions and examples, practice and error analysis, simple sentence diagrams, mentor texts with writing applications, and formative assessments are woven into every 25-minute lesson. The program also includes the Diagnostic Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics Assessments with corresponding worksheets to help students catch up, while they keep up with grade-level, standards-aligned instruction.

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary

Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 Programs

Or why not get the value-priced Grammar, Mechanics, Spelling, and Vocabulary (Teaching the Language Strand) grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 BUNDLES? These grade-level programs include both teacher’s guide and student workbooks and are designed to help you teach all the Common Core Anchor Standards for Language. In addition to the Teaching Grammar and Mechanics program, each BUNDLE provides weekly spelling pattern tests and accompanying spelling sort worksheets (L.2), 56 language application opener worksheets (L.3), and 56 vocabulary worksheets with multiple-meaning words, Greek and Latin word parts, figures of speech, word relationships with context clue practice, connotations, and four square academic language practice (L.4, 5, and 6). Comprehensive biweekly unit tests measure recognition, understanding, and application of the grammar, mechanics, and vocabulary components.

The program also has the resources to meet the needs of diverse learners. Diagnostic grammar, usage, mechanics, and spelling assessments provide the data to enable teachers to individualize instruction with targeted worksheets. Each remedial worksheet (over 200 per program) includes independent practice and a brief formative assessment.

Check out the brief introductory video and enter DISCOUNT CODE 3716 at check-out for 10% off this value-priced program. We do sell print versions of the teacher’s guide and student workbooks. Contact for pricing. Read what teachers are saying about this comprehensive program:

The most comprehensive and easy to teach grammar, mechanics, spelling, and vocabulary program. I’m teaching all of the grade-level standards and remediating previous grade-level standards. The no-prep and minimal correction design of this program really respects a teacher’s time. At last, I’m teaching an integrated program–not a hodge-podge collection of DOL grammar, spelling and vocabulary lists, and assorted worksheets. I see measurable progress with both my grade-level and intervention students. BTW… I love the scripted lessons!

─Julie Villenueve

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How to Get a 12 on the SAT® Essay

The SAT essay can produce time management challenges and difficulties for SAT-takers. Many students score poorly on this section; however, using the AEC  TP  IT  2B  RCP strategies will help SAT-takers significantly increase their SAT scores on the SAT essay section.

Prewriting (5 minutes)

Spend no more than five minutes on the AEC TP planning. You get no points for planning.

    1. First, read the one-sentence question that begins the Assignment section. This is the critical writing direction for your essay. Ignore reading the rest of the Assignment section.
    2. Next, read the text of the boxed Excerpt above. The excerpt provides some background information on an issue to help you frame your thesis statement. This excerpt appears after the Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below direction. Don’t bother to read the citation, unless you want to quote from it later in the essay.
    3. Read the Assignment again and Circle the subject of the essay.
    4. Write a one-sentence Thesis Statement as a declarative statement at the bottom of the essay directions page. A good thesis statement will mention the subject, will state the key words of the writing prompt, and will directly respond to the writing prompt with a specific point of view. Decide whether the prompt calls for more of an explanatory or argumentative response. Do not write a split (divided) thesis. Do not take an overly-controversial point of view.
    5. Quickly Prewrite the two body paragraphs underneath your thesis statement, using key words for the two topic sentences and the two or three major details for each body paragraph.

DRAFTING (17 minutes)

  1. Turn to the Section 1 Essay Box at the beginning of the answer sheets. You will compose your four paragraph essay on these lines. Indent all paragraphs, beginning with the Introduction. Your Introduction should consist of three-sentences. Select two appropriate Instruction Strategies from the list below as your first two sentences, using connecting transition words.

Introduction Strategies BAD RAP

    1. Background—Sentences that briefly explain the setting or help your reader better understand the thesis statement.
    2. Question to be Answered—A sentence worded as a question that asks either a question needing no answer (rhetorical question) or a question to make the reader think of a question that will be answered in the essay.
    3. Definition— Sentences that explain the meaning of a key word that may be unfamiliar to the reader or help to narrow the focus of the subject.
    4. Reference to Something Known in Common—Sentences that refer to a fact or idea already known by most people, including your reader.
    5. Quote from an Authority—Sentences that quote an authority in the subject of the essay. It must list the name of the authority.
    6. Preview of Topic Sentences—Sentences that list the subjects of each body paragraph topic sentence in the order they appear in the essay.
    7. Write the Thesis Statement after the two Introduction Strategy sentences, revising as needed from the Prewrite. This is the last sentence of your three-sentence introduction.
    8. Referring to the Prewrite, compose the 2 Body Paragraphs, beginning each with a topic sentence. The topic sentence appears in the first position of a body paragraph 80% of the time. Consider the fact that your readers expect your essay to conform to this standard and place the topic sentence as the first sentence of your body paragraphs as is expected. Don’t surprise your reader. Make sure that your topic sentence expresses the main idea of the body paragraph as a declarative statement and is not a subset of any major detail within the paragraph.
    9. Your body paragraphs should include two or three major details, each supported by two or three minor details. These detail sentences must include both evidence and your analysis of the evidence. Skip two lines after each body paragraph to allow for later revision. The subject matter of the prompt will be general enough for you to cite evidence from the following sources:
      -your personal experiences
      -content from middle school and high school classes
      -content from literature
      -current and past events

Vary the types of evidence that you present. No one is convicted for first-degree murder based upon one type of evidence alone, such as fingerprint evidence. Use several types of evidence from the following list to convince the reader of your point of view.

Types of Evidence CeF SCALE

A Comparison means to show how the subject is like something else in a meaningful way.

An experience used as evidence may be a commonly known event or an event of which there is limited knowledge.

A Fact means something actually said or done. Use quotes for direct or indirect quotations.

A Statistic is a numerical figure that represents evidence gained from scientific research.

A Counterpoint states an argument against your thesis statement and then provides evidence against that argument.

An Appeal to authority is a reference from an authority on a certain subject.

Logic means to use deductive (general to specific) or inductive (specific to general) reasoning to prove a point.

An Example is a subset typical of a category or group.

  1. Compose a Thesis Restatement as the first sentence of your conclusion paragraph. In other words, state your thesis statement in a different way that will lead smoothly into your two Conclusion Strategy sentences. Make sure that your thesis restatement covers the whole prompt, not just part. Select two Conclusion Strategies and use transition words to connect, if needed. Leave the readers with a finished, polished feel to your essay. Do not add any additional evidence to your conclusion.

Conclusion Strategies GQ SALES

  1. Generalization—Sentences that make one of your specific points more general in focus.
  2. Question for Further Study—Sentences that mention a related subject or question that is beyond the focus of the essay.
  3. Synthesis of Main Points—Sentences that pull together the points proven in the essay to say something new.
  4. Application—Sentences that apply the proven thesis statement to another idea or issue.
  5. Argument Limitations—Sentences that explain how or why your conclusions are limited.
  6. Emphasis of Key Point—Sentences that mention and add importance to one of the points of your essay.
  7. Statement of Significance—Sentences that discuss the importance and relevance of the proven thesis statement.

Proofread (3 minutes)

11. Save no more than three minutes to Proofread the entire essay. If the body paragraphs need an additional sentence, add it in on the skipped lines. The readers understand that your essay is a rough draft, so using editing marks is certainly appropriate. Squeeze additions in above the line, rather than in the margins. Don’t take risks with spelling and vocabulary words.

Writing Style

  • Write neatly in print or cursive. Don’t write too small or too large.
  • Don’t use big vocabulary. Keep your writing concise and simple.
  • Although the SAT publishers say that the readers will not mark down for use of the first person voice, use only third-person pronouns to emphasize objectivity.
  • Although the SAT publishers say that the readers will not mark down for use of narrative elements, avoid mixing the writing domains and stick with exposition.
  • Don’t try to be unique—no raps or poetry please. Write in formal essay style.
  • Don’t include slang, idioms (figures of speech), contractions, abbreviations, strings of prepositional phrases, or parenthetical remarks.
  • Keep pronoun references close to subjects in long sentences to make them clear. Make sure to keep pronoun references in number agreement.
  • Avoid passive voice.
  • Use specific and concrete nouns. Avoid general and abstract nouns.
  • Don’t split infinitives, end sentences with prepositions, or use intentional fragments.
  • Avoid gender-specific pronoun references by making them plural.
  • Don’t write a concluding statement at the end of body paragraphs.
  • Don’t overuse the “to-be” verbs.  Maintain the same verb tense throughout the essay and limit your use of the “to-be” verbs to no more than two per body paragraph. “To-be” Verbs: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been
  • Don’t rely on adjectives to do the job of solid nouns and verbs.
  • Vary your sentence length and sentence structure.
  • Vary your grammatical structures by including a variety of Sentence Openers. Frequently, writers over-rely on the Subject-Verb-Object (Complement) pattern.

Also, check out Mark Pennington’s articles on writing unity, coherence, and parallelism.

Find 8 complete writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informational-explanatory) with accompanying readings, 42 sequenced writing strategy worksheets, 64 sentence revision lessons, additional remedial worksheets, writing fluency and skill lessons, posters, and editing resources in TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE. Also get the e-comments download of 438 writing comments to improve written response and student revisions.

Pennington Publishing's TEACHING ESSAYS BUNDLE


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