Updated: Feb 14
As you know the 4th and 5th Grade FSA Florida Writing Test is coming up very soon. This is the time of year that practicing for FSA Writing is really important to push the students to practice their writing skills and to improve in any way they can. The problem most teachers face is not knowing where to start when they are at this point in teaching FSA Writing, to give them the last boost that they need before the writing test. I think it’s very important to look at past writing tests and writing samples from the students to see their areas of need.
I have always felt that teaching students to write a solid introduction and conclusion are two of the easiest ways to improve or boost scores. If students can earn the points in these areas they are more likely to get a high enough score to be considered passing. If you notice a trend of students struggling with either having a strong introduction or strong conclusion I suggest taking time to get them to work on those two areas.
Speaking from personal experience, don’t overdo the writing practice even at this point. Some teachers just give prompt after prompt and have the kids write but if you don’t take time to give feedback needed in between (or teach mini-lessons) to help them grow, those prompts will just burn them out. We need to give students a direction to really focus on so they can grow as writers.
March Madness Test Prep
One thing I do is “trick” the kids into completing extra writing activities. How do I do this? Glad you asked. Well, March Madness comes right before the writing test and one of the areas my students always struggle with is elaboration. They struggle to elaborate but also to cite text evidence and explain what they are citing. This is huge on the FSA writing test because the students need to be able to cite text properly and elaborate about what they cite. One of my favorite activities each year is reading about March Madness and taking the time to cite text evidence and explain the citations used. Why do they enjoy this so much? Well, it’s simple, it’s an engaging topic and not what they are used to reading in class. Since they LOVE the topic, they are fully engaged. Then I show them how this relates to their essays.
Another engaging way I practice and prepare my students for the FSA Writing test is letting the kids work in small groups and creating fun competitions. Of course they are friendly competitions but the kids get excited to see who can work together to create the best essay. I always look closely at writing samples from students before forming groups. If I know that one student is excellent at writing introductions I make sure I pair that student up with some students that might be struggling in that area. I even chat with them about helping each other improve in certain areas. It’s amazing how much growth I see using these activities. Once they start working with a small group of 2 to 3 people it really does change the entire learning environment. I find that they don’t even realize they’re actually writing an essay when they write as a group. I have even turned this into a tournament situation like March Madness. Of course I didn’t have the 68 teams starting off like the tournament but I started with the Elite Eight (or Final Four) depending on how many students and groups I wanted for the classes. Then each time they wrote an essay together there would be winners from both sides of the brackets. Then the winners would compete with each other. In the past I have had classes that can’t handle this competition so only use this method if you know your class can handle friendly competitions and work nicely together over multiple work sessions. I also ensure them that in the end they will all be winners and earn “trophies” or rewards.
Engaging Writing Prompt Idea