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Expository Writing for STAAR
Last Post 12 Nov 2012 07:51 AM by Chancy Smith. 16 Replies.
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Sally BrattonUser is Offline New Member New Member Posts:34
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24 Jan 2012 01:41 PM
    I've been scouring my LTF materials (and the website) looking for materials to assist our cause. Students have so little practice with informative writing due to the TAKS test "warm-fuzzy" personal narrative that we are having issues with structure. While there are tons of materials in LTF for thesis, etc -- most of them are dedicated to literary analysis. I need materials that force students to come up with their own evidence. The STAAR at 9th will only give them a short quote or synopsis to focus thinking on a topic such as "are people judged by the friends they keep"?

    I need help getting them to elaborate AND create a thesis that is not persuasive. Any suggestions?

    Thanks!
    Sally Bratton


    Melanie RaglandUser is Offline New Member New Member Posts:7
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    24 Jan 2012 02:37 PM
    Have you been told, as we have on my campus, that students will only be provided 26 lines for each essay and 10 lines for each open-ended response items on the answer documents with no doubling up of lines? I'm ok with 10 lines for OER, but 26 lines total for an essay? how do you teach that? I'm freaking out because I have been trying to get my (all regular ed) kids to write at least a page and a half to 2 pages---now I have to cut that in half?


    Sally BrattonUser is Offline New Member New Member Posts:34
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    24 Jan 2012 02:48 PM
    We have. I'm finding my students are capable of strong literary writing in 26 lines, but the expository piece is not so good. They have no clue about structure OR coming up with logical ideas/elaboration to support their opinions. (and many of mine are trying to be persuasive -- I'm trying not to hit freak out mode; just figuring that we are all in the same boat and scores will likely be low across the state)


    Melanie RaglandUser is Offline New Member New Member Posts:7
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    24 Jan 2012 05:22 PM
    Well, I'm not sure my kids can do "strong literary writing" with any amount of lines! Do you teach Pre-AP? I have a workshop on Feb 9 at our ESC over Expository Reading and Writing ...will pass along any good info/ strategies I pick up!


    Sheila CurlinUser is Offline Senior Member Senior Member Posts:117
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    25 Jan 2012 07:43 AM
    If you look on the Additional Materials and Resource page of the LTF website, under Teacher Resources/The Persuasive Response, you will find three documents that may help: a "thinking" flowchart, a Brainstorming and Pre-Writing chart, and a template for a persuasive essay. Even though the STAAR assignment is expository, it is still a "position" paper in which students must take a position and defend it with evidence. (Which is what the synthesis paper is except with additional resources).

    I hope this helps!


    Laura ArrazoloUser is Offline Senior Member Senior Member Posts:111
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    25 Jan 2012 10:14 AM
    Sally, I'm curious why you are concerned about your students approaching this essay as a persuasive piece. As Sheila says, we have been interpreting the 7th and 9th grade Expository prompts as "position papers." Students are basically asked to take a stand on a given quote or topic - and there is nothing in the rubric to indicate they would be penalized for writing persuasively - i.e. writing to support a particular position using both logical and emotional arguments. There is also no limit to the kinds of evidence they use. My assumption is that students can use a variety of evidence to support their position - everything from a quotation (Most people believe that "birds of a feather flock together") to a personal anecdote (borrowing a page from their personal narrative days - i.e. "When I became friends with Sharla, a sunny cheerleader, my popularity increased for a few days; when I befriended Aaron, a shaggy-haired introvert, my reputation plummeted" ) to a modern or historical example ("political candidates like Mitt Romney are often judged for the lobbyist friends they keep" or "During the Red Scare, it became dangerous for people like to be friends with a known Communist") to a serious piece of statistics, even a fabricated one ("In a recent survey, 55% of teens surveyed listed 'who their friends are' as one of the top factors influencing their opinions of their peers"). Having this much freedom can be challenging, but it should also be encouraging to students: everyone can find his or her unique style on this essay. And they don't have to persuade someone to do anything, just to consider and hopefully believe their ideas. It should also encourage kids to realize that their practice will pay off: they'll also be writing this sort of essay on their SAT test and AP Language exam.

    Sheila's recommended resources are good ones! That "thinking" flowchart is an excellent model for approaching an Expository writing prompt. I would also add that on the Lessons and Overviews pages, you'll find the Writing the Persuasive Essay prompt, asking kids to write about whether parents should use the SafeTrak Teen Driver Tracking System to track their teens' whereabouts. The process it models - brainstorming pro's and con's, brainstorming possible logical and emotional arguments, writing a thesis, and making an outline based on the template - could be really helpful.

    I would suggest running a series of practices (one a week for a month, perhaps). Here is a rough outline, based on several conversations I've had with teachers lately.
    1) give kids a sample Expository prompt and practice breaking it down and remembering what to do;
    2) have them brainstorm possible connections and arguments for/ against (first as a whole class, then the next time in groups, then the next time on their own)
    3) have them write a thesis (based on their own opinion and intended evidence) and go over strong and weak examples using an overhead or doc cam
    4) have them create sample note-style outlines for a 4- or 5-paragraph essay using at least 2 strong pieces of varied evidence in each - i.e. a quotation from a movie, song, or book; a personal or friend/family anecdote; a fact or statistic; an analogy or metaphor; and/or an example from the news or history. Here's an acronym for that evidence:
    Q-FAME (Quotation, Fact, Anecdote, Metaphor, Example).
    In other words, I would practice all those pieces before writing any essays. Then after kids have tried this 3 or 4 times, saving their work in a folder, you could invite them to pick one (or assign one) and use their notes to write an in-class essay and then work from there. That's just one approach. I'll be eager to hear other ideas! You're sure not alone! Thanks for getting the discussion started!


    Endi VargasUser is Offline New Member New Member Posts:14
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    01 Feb 2012 01:07 PM
    I have gone on the flash fiction sites and found examples of great short stories that have proven to be very beneficial for the students. They are able to see that a great short story can be witten in just 26 lines. After presenting these examples and showing them that a 26 line short storiy only brings in supporting events that directly relate to the climax, the students wrote some great stories in 26 lines. I have an outline that guides the students that has also proven beneficial.


    Debra SquiresUser is Offline Senior Member Senior Member Posts:1004
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    02 Feb 2012 09:14 AM
    Endi--I'm not familiar. Should we just google "flash fiction" to find the sites you mentioned? And with your kids, how do you then translate this skill of the very short story into the expository format?


    Deb Squires
    NMSI English Online Forum Facilitator
    Laura ArrazoloUser is Offline Senior Member Senior Member Posts:111
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    03 Feb 2012 10:53 AM
    Hi, Sally et al. I'm excited to share a pair of lessons for Writing Introductions and Writing Conclusions that I developed this week for the 7th grade STAAR Expository essay - which is very similar to the 9th grade Expository essay. (7th graders are given a quote and a statement to agree or disagree with; 9th graders are given a situation and a statement to agree or disagree with.) I modeled these lessons after an LTF lesson, The Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Writing Body Paragraphs - a rhetorical analysis/ composition lesson not currently used in training. I really like the 3-step Intro/ Conclusion strategy, the idea of reflecting back to the intro, and the good ol' "I do/ we do/ you do" model.. I hope this is useful. I think the structure and examples could work for high school; you just may want to change a few pieces to fit your type of prompt. (In other words, this structure should work well for several types of persuasive essays.)

    I took the sample prompt from the 7th grade sample given on the TEA website. You may want to do the same with the sample prompt for your grade level - or use this for a different type of persuasive essay, for that matter.

    With the intros lesson, I went over the structure and hooks, asking kids to read the sample sentences and asking them what kind of topic they might introduce. (I tried to set them up for specific topics like the environment, education, technology, and safety, as well as more abstract topics like time and decisions.) Then we looked at the sample intro and then wrote one together, defending the other side of the prompt (pro-teamwork) and using a different hook strategy. The next step might be breaking them into groups to write yet one more together, and workshopping those using a doc cam.

    The acronym/ saying I came up with to remember the Hooks is "SQQueak or get MAD!" and for body paragraph evidence, suggesting that kids use QFRAME for their first 1-2 paragraphs: quotation, fact, reason, anecdote, metaphor, and/ or example - what am I forgetting? and then a concession/ counterargument for their last paragraph. I just think that's a really strong persuasive strategy, and it can be used in a variety of ways. Does anyone have other ideas for body paragraphs?

    You'll need the intro lesson to do the conclusions lesson - at least the list of hooks. I had kids number both lists so kids can see how they line up. Then it worked well to put kids in groups and give them each a hook and "ocean sentence" (change that fishing metaphor if you don't like it) to mark as directed. Then you can show them the model, write one together using a different position and different strategy, and then have them try it again on their own. Happy writing!

    LA_Intro_Expos.docx
    LA_Concl_Expos.docx

    Sally BrattonUser is Offline New Member New Member Posts:34
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    03 Feb 2012 12:38 PM
    These are all great ideas. Thank you! And Laura, I have no clue why I was so concerned about students approaching expository as a persuasive. I think the stress of it all (including the end of our semester and grading a ridiculous number of district benchmark essays) had me mentally numb! All of these ideas are awesome -- and I am so hopeful and excited that students will now be spending some serious "face time" with the kinds of writing tools and structures they need to master -- not just for a state test but for real life. {The joke in my department recently while two of us were drafting letters requesting adjudication was that real life writing is not typically a personal narrative -- it certainly included an anecdote, but it was NOT a personal narrative!}

    GREAT resources! Thank you!


    Yolonda DrawhornUser is Offline New Member New Member Posts:14
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    26 Feb 2012 01:00 PM
    I like the Q-FAME idea. I was talking to a Dallas ISD reading coach and she stated that the usual 5 paragraph would only score a 2. I have been looking at Florida anchor sets and their prompts are somewhat different, but at least they give some examples. If you view the 6 level answers, you can scour out some good samples. None use examples from novels and they all seem personal narrative-like.


    The Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy
    If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress.
    Barack Obama
    Laura VelaUser is Offline New Member New Member Posts:10
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    01 Mar 2012 12:57 PM
    Flash fiction is the best model for freshman students!! This helps with the literary essay.


    Laura ArrazoloUser is Offline Senior Member Senior Member Posts:111
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    01 Mar 2012 01:12 PM
    Hey, Laura. Fun to hear from you via the Forum! 'Hope you're doing well. You're the second person to bring up flash fiction (Endi was the first). I trust you both mean as a model for the Literary essay, not the Expository essay? Or is there something I'm missing? Also, do you have any good titles or websites to recommend? Thanks!


    Laura VelaUser is Offline New Member New Member Posts:10
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    01 Mar 2012 01:38 PM
    Yes, for the literary essay. I have a ton of websites and anthology titles. I will make sure to share when I get to my laptop at home :-)


    Emily AllenUser is Offline New Member New Member Posts:1
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    04 Nov 2012 12:58 PM
    Can anyone tell me a good place to go to find resources to help with the English II Expository Essay for STAAR. I have received no training and am really looking for some lessons to help my kids write these types of responses. I have looked at the TEA website, but did not find that super helpful for what I am looking for. In fact any resources related to English II STAAR test would be greatly appreciated!


    Debra SquiresUser is Offline Senior Member Senior Member Posts:1004
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    05 Nov 2012 05:50 AM
    Hi, Emily. Do you have a password for LTF materials? If so, let me know and I'll point you at some things.


    Deb Squires
    NMSI English Online Forum Facilitator
    Chancy SmithUser is Offline New Member New Member Posts:47
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    12 Nov 2012 07:51 AM

    Here is a ppt that we walk through with our kids. We work on them breaking down the prompt then choosing which strategy would work best.


    Writing_to_Explain.pptx

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