Skip to content

Testing Demands and Writing Workshop

Literacy Spark asked:

Do you have to deal with testing in writing…if not how would you deal with?  I’m trying to teach it as an immersion genre, like everything else but I’m meeting resistance from administration that wants “test prep.”

In short, I do deal with testing.  In fact, fourth graders in Rhode Island have to take three NECAP Tests (Reading and Math in October; Science in May; They’re taking Science now.) during the school year.

I’m presently doing a mini-unit of study on writing for tests so that my students will be adequately prepared to take the fifth grade NECAP Writing Test in the Fall.  However, the reason we are teaching this unit isn’t just so the students do well on the fifth grade writing test; it’s so that they understand how to respond to prompts given to them on all standardized tests.

As any teacher knows, you have to take LOTS of standardized tests in order to obtain a higher education (degree), to get certified, etc.  Therefore, understanding test language (e.g., key words and what they really mean so that you can respond to a question properly) is just as important as writing with conventions so that your message is understood.  Hence, while I might not love teaching my students how to write responses to prompts that they might encounter on standardized tests, I recognize the importance of it and therefore am glad to teach it to them so that they will know what to do going-forward whenever they encounter a writing task outside of our classroom.

We don’t spend all year teaching the kids how to take Writing Tests.  We spend the year teaching our kids how to become better writers through Writing Workshop.  However, we do carve out time to teach them about the genre of writing for tests since it is, afterall, a genre unlike any other that they need to be prepared to handle.

Everything in moderation, right?

Stacey Shubitz View All

I am a literacy consultant who focuses on writing workshop. I've been working with K-6 teachers and students since 2009. Prior to that, I was a fourth and fifth-grade teacher in New York City and Rhode Island.

I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).

I live in Central Pennsylvania with my husband and children. In my free time, I enjoy swimming, doing Pilates, cooking, baking, making ice cream, and reading novels.

3 thoughts on “Testing Demands and Writing Workshop Leave a comment

  1. I too taught it as a “genre” this year and I am really hoping my students’ scores support my instruction so that I won’t have to defend my methods as much next year.


  2. I recall us having a similar discussion last year about this time. I have treated the test taking writing skills as a unit of study this year, and I will do this for the next 100 years I think. 🙂 I have done lots of things during the year to reinforce skills they hopefully brought to my class, just as I have done with every writing genre. However, this month is the first concentrated amount of time I have spent really hammering it home. I can download tests from previous years, so we use those to practice with. They have the exact format to use for practice. This is also the first time I have really been spending a lot of time talking about bumping up a work to another level for marking and having them mark up their own work (highlighting the word “because” and all their supporting reasons, for example). The rest of the year I have given them rubrics about specific writing skills that will transfer to life, but this is the month when we will concentrate on marks alone. As Stacey said, this is a skill they will need all the way up through university, but I certainly don’t want it to be their only writing skill (as some of my/our colleagues seem to treat it.) As the month has progressed, I have felt they are improving markedly, and will be ready for the test at the end of the month.


%d bloggers like this: