Standardized Writing Prompts

In Indiana, many students will be taking the state writing test next week. So I’ve been thinking about what is most important for our young writers to know prior to taking the standardized test.  I’ve decided it is this:

You know everything you need to know to be successful.

As with most things when it comes to writing, we need to have faith. Faith that the writing workshops and specific instruction students have received since kindergarten is sufficient. Faith that daily practice and conferring to the point of need and writing for real reasons are worthy ways to spend our time. Faith that the act of writing is more worthwhile than listening to a teacher or a book or a worksheet tell how to write.

Students attended school only one day this week at my school. They take the writing prompt portion of the state test on Tuesday. It is my hope that in an effort to “prepare” students we spend time celebrating all that they know as writers. We spend time celebrating the things they can do. And we don’t try to cram in everything they should know in an effort to prepare them.

If you are interested in this kind of celebration, gather a few adults and put your students in small groups. Ask students to bring some of their writing they would like to share. They won’t be sharing an entire draft, but just a few really great lines that they’ve written. Then give each adult a list of interview questions. A 5th grade class is hosting this celebration at 9:00 am on Monday and we are adding donuts + orange juice. Conversation is always richer over food. Here are some possible interview questions designed to get young writers talking about their writing lives and feeling confident in themselves as writers.

  • What genre do you like to write?
  • What topics do you like to write about?
  • Where is your favorite place to write?
  • What is the best thing you’ve ever written?
  • When it comes to the writing process, what part do you like best? Why?
  • Will you read me something you’ve written recently?
  • What do you do best as a writer?
  • What is difficult about writing?
  • What are you working to do better as a writer?

Here is a PDF of the interview questions for you to print and give to each group leader: interview celebration.

Writers flourish when they are confident. It is easy to tear down in the name of Test Prep what we’ve spent the year building up . I’d like to encourage you to harness the pressure of standardized tests and give your students the gift of confidence.