The RWA is what we formerly called the Demand Writing.  The new emphasis in writing is text-based.  Students  have to read at least a couple of articles on a related topic and then use evidence from the articles along with their own information to respond to the prompt.  The writing is to be on topic, focused, organized, contain both text-evidence and elaboration--with a balance of both, and use proper grammar/conventions.  Just in case you want more specifics, read on.        



    The Rubrics:

    • The rubrics are analytic consisting of three domains. 
    • An analytic rubric examines specific criteria separately. 
    • The three domains in the rubric are Purpose, Focus and Organization (4 points); Evidence and Elaboration (4 points); and Conventions of Standard English (2 points).


    • Every score point refers to the audience, purpose and task. This is the context of the writing task. Students must pay attention to the task detailed in the prompt in order to respond appropriately. For example, on the FSA portal, the grades 6-8 Writing Training test includes the following language related to the task: “Write an essay in which you take a position on whether or not mistakes are a key part of discovery. Use the information presented in the passages to support your points. Make sure to include information from all the passages in your essay.” In this example, the writing task indicates that the student should write an argumentative essay, including a position (claim) that states whether mistakes are a key part of discovery. Information in the passages should be used as evidence in the argument. 


    • The student must address the task!


    • A score point 3 in the Purpose, Focus and Organization and the Evidence and Elaboration domains meets the requirements of the task. It indicates that the student has met the standard.


    • Each domain is scored separately, with a holistic mindset within each domain.


    How should students approach the task?

    1. Students should begin by reading the prompt before reading the passage set to determine the purpose for reading and responding. 


    2. To cite evidence, the student should refer to the specific passage title or author.


    3. Students must take the time to read the passages closely. Analysis and synthesis of the textual evidence is critical to writing proficiency. It may be helpful to use marking strategies when reading the text for quick references to critical pieces of evidence to support the point being made. 


    4. Students should reread and dissect the prompt, assuring that they fully understand the task. The task could have more than one part, and both should be addressed in the essay. Paying attention to the purpose in the prompt will also help the student respond in the correct mode.


    5. Before responding to the prompt, the student should plan the response according to the purpose, audience and task.


    What is important when students are writing?

    6. It is helpful for the student to consider the audience and write as if the audience has not studied the passages. Students should assume the audience is intelligent but may be unfamiliar with the specific information in the passages. 


    7. The students should focus on quality over quantity when writing, but writing that is too brief will not contain adequate evidence from the text.


    8. The response should illustrate a balance between the use of textual evidence and the student’s own view/original ideas. Otherwise, the response may become a summary of the text or mere regurgitation/copying of the passage(s).


    9. Repetitive vocabulary or sentences weakens the writing. This includes repetitive transitional or stylistic devices.


    10. Extensive copying word for word from the text is not acceptable. Direct quotes should be relevant and connected by original writing. Students must acknowledge the source of their information. This can be informal. It becomes a more critical part of the standards as students move up in the grades.


    11. Beware of overused transitions without internal paragraph organization.


    12. Organization is important, but one organizational structure will NOT work with all prompts. The organizational structure must fit the task.


    13. The student’s response must reflect analysis, but direct reference to every passage is not required unless evidence from every passage is used in the response or is required in the task.


    14. There is more than one right way to address the prompt. The key is relevant evidence fully integrated with the student’s elaboration.


    15. The evidence required is dependent on the passage and the task in the prompt. The student must dissect  the prompt.


    16. Student ideas should be closely connected to the textual support and logically used to support.


    17. Precise academic vocabulary is important to the quality of the paper.




    Their daily writing journal directions:  I give them a new prompt each day.  If they were absent they are to back-date it in the margin and make a note of why they weren’t there.  They then put the current date in the margin at the beginning of their entry.  They are to write at least five complete and interesting sentences.  They are to write until I say, “Stop.”  They then draw a squiggly line under the new entry, and put the journal back in the desk.


    My expectations:  When I grade their journals I will be watching for the incorporation of the skills they have already learned this year.  This list will continue to grow as the year goes on and they continue to learn.  I will also be looking at the four elements that are looked at for all writing assessments:  focus, organization, support, and conventions.  Each prompt should be well-focused on the topic with a logical organizational pattern.  The topic should be supported with interesting details (not just a list) that are written in a variety of sentence structures (including using compound and complex sentences).  Finally, there should be rare errors in grammar, punctuation, and the spelling of common words.  Since their journals are not considered published writing, I know there will be occasional errors, but I should not see periods every three words, nor should I not see a single period throughout the entire entry.


    How you can help:  If you see on the Portal that your child’s journal grades are low, choose a prompt from my “Links” page under “Creative Writing Prompts,” set a timer for five minutes, and give your child time to write.  When the timer goes off, please review the writing together paying attention to the length and interest of the response, in addition to the focus, organization, support, and use of conventions.  What are the strengths?  What are the weaknesses?  How could s/he make it better next time?


    Sample prompt #1:  What do you like best about cold weather?  Explain.  What do you like least about cold weather?  Explain.

    Strong sample student response #1:  “What I like best about cold weather is that I get hot chocolate.  Hot chocolate is super good with mini marshmallows in it.  My GG even gave me orange hot chocolate for Halloween.  What I don’t like about cold weather is my lips get all cracked and sometimes bleed.  It really hurts when my lips get cracked.  Then I have to put medicine on my lips.”

    Weak sample student response #1:  I like cold weather.  I like cold weather because I can go outside and play.  And not sweat.  This is why I like cold weather.  Do you like cold weather?


    Sample prompt #2:  Imagine you are a mountain and you are sitting and watching the world.  What do you see?

    Strong sample student response #2:  “I’m a mountain in Alaska.  I’m watching the world in front of me.  It stinks.  Every once in a while I see a boat, but nothing interesting.  Wait, I see something! It’s a penguin!  Look how graceful it is when it soars through the water!  Whoa!  It’s a sea lion!  Look at how fast it swims!  It looks like a blur!  Wow, this is great!” 




    - types of sentences and their punctuation (statement, question, command, exclamation)

    - fragments & forming complete sentences (subject and predicate)

    - combining sentences (compound sentences)

    - complex sentences

    - run-on sentences and how to fix them

    - capitalizing proper nouns

    •   forming plural nouns
    •   irregular plural nouns
    •   figurative language (similes, metaphors, idioms, etc.)
    •   using apostrophes with possessive nouns and contractions
    •   using commas in a series
    •   underlining long works (titles of books, magazines, newspapers, etc.)
    •   using quotation marks for short works (titles of poems, songs, chapters in a book, etc.)
    •   using quotation marks with dialogue
    •   alliteration, assonance, consonance, repetition, repetition  :)