Monday, July 28, 2014

Synthesis Question on Happiness (Practice for the AP English Language and Composition Exam, as well as the Argumentative Essay Prompt for the Florida Standards Assessment)

Below is a synthesis question that I created for AP English practice. Synthesis is also a required skill for the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The Florida Standards Assessment Writing Component will include an Argumentative Essay Prompt. This prompt could be adapted for practice with your students. Teachers should reduce the sources included below and also reword/reformat the prompt to mimic the type of prompt students will see on the Florida test. See the following link to get an idea of how to reword/reformat: Read the section of the post titled "Writing Assessment" (highlighted in yellow, a third of the way down).

Argumentative Essay Rubric--Peer Editing (Preparation for Argumentative Essay Prompt--Florida Standards Assessment)

The following rubric/peer editing directions may be helpful for the new Florida Standards Assessment (Writing--March 2015)

1. Does the writer have a strong introductory paragraph with a clear thesis/argument/claim?
2. Does the writer provide excellent examples within the body paragraphs to support the 
    main argument/claim?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Possible Rubrics for Florida Standards Assessment (Writing)

American Institutes for Research (AIR) developed the Common Core test for the state of Utah. AIR is also creating the new assessment for Florida. Check out the following links that may offer insight into the length of the tests, the writing rubrics, and the weight of scoring:

Florida Standards Assessment Terminology (ELA)

I scanned tests and Common Core Standards for many of the terms on the following list. I also included terms which I consider "Pre-AP" in order to increase rigor in English classes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Strategies for Responding to an Informational Essay Prompt Based on Texts (Practice for Florida Standards Assessment--Writing)

The Florida Standards Assessment for Writing (March 2-13, 2015) will have either an informational essay prompt or an argumentative essay prompt. Both prompts require students to cite textual evidence from accompanying reading passages. Below are strategies for students to use for the informational essay prompt. 

I also created a sample informational essay prompt that you may find useful for practice with your students: I will soon post strategies for answering the argumentative essay prompt.

Strategies for Responding to an Informational Essay Prompt Based on Texts

Definition of an Informational Essay: An informational essay informs, conveys, imparts, or communicates factual unbiased knowledge to an audience (gives no opinion; think "just the facts").

If you are asked to write an informational essay based on the knowledge supplied in accompanying texts, you should consider the strategies listed below the following sample prompt:

Sample Informational Essay Prompt: Practice for New Florida Standards Assessment

Suggestions for Teacher:

Students should type their responses as practice for the exam. Although the directions from the sample test at
do not specify parenthetical citations, I would have students cite any information they use in their essays (both paraphrased text and text that students choose to quote). I would advise students to write the title or an abridged version of the title within parentheses. For example, the first text below would be cited as (“Black Death”), the next text could be abbreviated as (“Sin”) and the third text could be abbreviated as (“Depopulation”).

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Common Core and Language Arts: Sample Question Stems for Multiple Choice and Writing on New ELA Test (Florida Standards Assessment)

The following questions stems were excerpted and adapted from the Pennsylvania Keystone Exam Item and Scoring Sampler. I have culled that sample exam as a vehicle for becoming familiar with Common Core question types that may appear on Florida's new ELA test.

Stems for Text-Dependent Questions: Useful for New ELA Test (Florida Standards Assessment)

I'm not sure how I ended up with this great list of question stems (whether someone sent them to me or I found them by searching the Internet). Nevertheless, the stems are excellent for us to use in our classes to prepare for the new ELA test. The original document cites the source: Literacy Design Collaborative (2012). Thank you, L.D. Collaborative.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Practice for New ELA Test (Florida Standards Assessment)

I plan to teach my students the following mnemonic device as a method of analyzing every text we read. Whether students read on their own, or we read a selection as a class, they will be required to write down the following information for each text. In addition, I will instruct students to find textual support for each element listed below. There is also a list of additional suggested practices and strategies at the end of the post.

My Performance is Determined by Focussing on Very Good Techniques.

M--Main Idea; Mode of Discourse. Students will paraphrase the main idea of the text, then cite the sentence or sentences that support their assertion. In terms of mode of discourse, most texts can be described as one mode: argumentation, for example. However, I will impress upon students that authors often use multiple modes of discourse within one text: description, exposition, process analysis, cause/effect, division and classification, narration, illustration, compare/contrast, etc.

Friday, July 18, 2014

ELA Florida Standards Assessment--Test Design Summary and Blueprint, Grades 9, 10, and 11 (Reading and Writing Exams)

The information below was excerpted from the Florida Department of Education website.

Grades 9-11 FSA ELA Reading, Language, & Listening; Writing Assessment  

Synopsis/Analysis of Florida Standards Assessment Training Test--ELA Reading, Language, & Listening (Grades 9-11)

I reviewed the Training Test on the Florida Department of Education Website and extracted the following information:

Ways to Prepare Students for New Florida Standards Assessment (ELA) and Other Rigorous Exams

  • Teaching to the test. Yes, teaching to the test. I know that this may seem like anathema to many educators, but from a pragmatic point of view it works. For example, in the the new Common Core Florida Standards Assessment that we will be preparing students for (whatever its format), we do know that high-level critical thinking skills will be emphasized. We need to give students concrete, specific explanations of what these skills mean (in language and through analogies that they can understand), as well as explicit step-by-step directives on how to understand/use each skill in both reading and writing. Students will never understand the skills of evaluation, analysis, synthesis, and argumentation unless we teach in ways that are specific, concrete, and directed.

Common Core and Language Arts Assessment: How to Analyze an Author's Style

I use the following handout in my Advanced Placement English Language and Composition classes (grade 11), but the information is also helpful for grades 9 and 10. 

Common Core and Language Arts Assessment: Analysis Handout for High School Students

Analysis (in both reading and writing) will be the most important skill to teach students for the new Language Arts Assessment that will be replacing the FCAT. Below is a handout that I created for all high school grades. Feel free to use this material in your classes, but kindly include a line of attribution citing this website, as I also work as a freelance writer and editor.

Explanation of Analysis 

Analysis is the WHY and the HOW. What? Why? How? Explain and elaborate on the effect. Specificity is key!

What would help explain specifically?

What words does the writer use? Why does she use those specific words? How is the use of those words effective? And most importantly, how does that particular use of language support/relate to the overarching argument/claim/thesis/theme in the text?

How to Write an Analysis Essay (Handout)

See also the post on How to Analyze:

This post is geared to the general high school English class. There are other posts that are specific to the AP English Language and Composition course. Use the Search box. See the following link, for example, but there are many other posts for AP classes.

    How to Write an Analysis Essay
  • Analysis means explaining (with textual evidence, i.e., quotes) how an author effectively renders/shows/establishes a particular literary aspect.  For example, theme, mood, characterization, conflict.  Before you begin to write the essay, you have to figure out what larger aspect of the text you will be analyzing. (Sometimes your teacher will assign a specific literary aspect for you to analyze; other times, you will have to choose that literary aspect on your own.)  As you are reading the text, you need to find excellent examples (quotes) that will support that larger literary aspect.

Resources for Teachers

See the attached link for great back-to-school teaching resources:

Schools Need to Teach Students about Memory and the Brain Now

I know these experiences have happened to you.
  • You teach a lesson, and during that class it seems students are learning.  You ask questions, and the students, for the most part, answer correctly.  The next day you ask questions about yesterday's lesson, and very few students can recall the correct answers. They shout out anything that pops into their heads; at times, nonsensical gobbledygook.