They write essays on a regular basis.
(*Facepalm*) the issue is, the ACT’s writing section is significantly diffent enough from the writing normally done at school that I see lots of students underperform in a manner that is completely preventable. Typically “good” writers are receiving scores of 6 or 8 (out of 12), when they should always be getting more numbers that are competitive.
Whilst it’s definitely not an 11th grade English teacher’s “job” to do ACT/SAT prep or to “teach into the test”, there is a problematic reality that if teachers do not get involved a little, most students won’t get this knowledge and/or skills anywhere else. And that, my teacher friend, is worrisome.
An english teacher can take to help juniors be more ready so what’s going on, and what are the easiest steps?
Here you will find the biggest culprits:
1. The timing is much more intense than school. It is 30 minutes total, including reading the prompt together with entire brainstorm, draft, and proofread process. That task can be daunting if students get writer’s block, have test anxiety, do not understand the prompt when you look at the heat for the brief moment, or find it difficult to wrestle their ideas into submission.
If your students haven’t done timed writing in some time, are accustomed to 45 minutes, or aren’t effective in it, then they’ll need assist to cope. Take a look at my timed unit that is writing help students get practice completing a cohesive draft in a shorter time.
2. Students don’t know the (new) rubric.When the ACT changed the writing test in 2016, the prompt style AND the rubric both changed. The assessment is not any longer just a typical 5-paragraph (or so) opinion essay. Students are meant to also:
- acknowledge, support, or refute other viewpoints
- provide some mixture of context, implications, significance, etc.
- recognize flaws in logic or assumptions made in a viewpoint, using it for their advantage if necessary
- (still write a essay that is cohesive a thesis and many different evidence, as before)
all in 30 minutes or less. English teachers can help by at the very least going over the rubric in class, if you don’t assigning an ACT-style essay that gets assessed within the class.
3. The linguistic bar is high. Aside from the content characteristics described in #2, students are supposed to have grammar that is decent varied sentence structures once and for all flow, transitions within and between paragraphs, and extremely great fiction or synonyms.
English teachers: if the writing rubrics or style that is gradingn’t typically address these, consider bringing it up in class, assessing of these characteristics on the next essay, or reading over a mentor text that DOES meet this bar (see #4).
4. They need to see examples. I strongly recommend that students go to this url to not only read a sample 6/6 essay, but compare it to a 4 or 5 essay to notice its differences. I do a compare/contrast activity for this reason when I teach my ACT writing lessons. The stakes are high enough that it’s worth going over a mentor text to see what the expectations are and debunk the basic idea that it’s impossible to complete.
The conclusion I’ve been tutoring the ACT long enough to recognize the distinctions between the old and new versions, as well as without “teaching to the test”, you can find simple actions educators can take to greatly help juniors stay at or over the average that is national achieve their college dreams. Using even many of these tips can help students be a tad bit more ready on test day, and much more grateful as a teacher that they had you.