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Primary Teachers: I need your advice, please!

I’m preparing to help a K-8 school administer and score on-demand narrative writing assessments.  We’ll be using the on-demand writing performance assessment prompt from Writing Pathways.  I noticed (on page 22 and again on page 182) all K-8 students are expected to complete the assessment in 45 minutes.  As someone who only taught upper elementary grades, 45 minutes seems like a long time to expect students in grades K-2 to sit and work on one piece of narrative writing.  I’m sure some kids can use work diligently that entire time, but I’m wondering if the vast majority will…

I was hoping to get some guidance from primary teachers about the time frame you think is appropriate for an on-demand writing assessment, given in September, in grades K-2.  How much time do you think K-2 students should have to complete an on-demand narrative writing assessment?  Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment.  THANK YOU!

Stacey Shubitz View All

I am a literacy consultant who has spent the past dozen years working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grades K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.

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).

14 thoughts on “Primary Teachers: I need your advice, please! Leave a comment

  1. This is so tricky because different kids have different experience. I think giving them 45 minutes is more of a cut-off time than a mandatory “write for 45 minutes.” That is the way I would interpret the directions (without having read them of course). 🙂 I know a couple of first graders that looped with me this year who could work on writing for this long, but they are few and far between. Kindergarten in September, whole different animal. They have so little experience and would likely only last 5-10 minutes. Which for a baseline assessment is probably fine. 45 minutes seems long but it is nice for those kids who have really built stamina and have a lot to say.

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  2. Love seeing the experiences from so many teachers. I teach 5th and 30 minutes was painful for the majority. Most were done in 20. I think it is an assessment just to see how they handle the time frame. Setting it forward as an expectation (just like the number of pages in the booklet) may put forth some subtle messages. Yesterday students wrote for 35 minutes solid. All of them. When I stopped them because of time constraints they moaned nooo. That right there tells me something has changed since the beginning of the year.

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  3. Like others have said, it depends on the grade and on the school. At 2nd grade they may be quite able to use up the whole 45 minutes especially when are using their time to plan their writing. I think the 45 minutes time frame is there to accommodate a child who is quite capable, allowing her to have the time she needs to develop and complete her story. It does not mean it is the time that will be needed by all students.

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  4. We’ve been in school for 4 days and my students have built 19 minutes of writing stamina. That’s on-task writing (they may be chatting about their writing during this time). We will do our on-demand piece this week and we’re expected to give them 45 minutes. In my past experience, some are done in 5-10 minute and many have used the whole time and wanted more. If they finish quickly, I ask them to reread it and make sure they said everything they wanted to, then I ask them to draw a picture.

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  5. We have always given first and second grades 45 minutes. First grade gave their assessment last week and some students took the whole 45 minutes. Kindergarten uses their judgement at the beginning of the year, but at the end of the year, they stick to the 45 minutes. It does seem like an arbitrary number, but, for the most part, it gives a fairly accurate snapshot of the writer. Good luck!

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  6. It depends on which grade level (K, 1 or 2) and how many years they have had writer’s workshop and on-demand writing. The more familiar they are the longer they tend to spend. In K, we have found between 15-20 minutes. 1 and 2 can often go 30 -45 minutes if they have done this the prior year or years. Hope this helps.
    Clare and Tammy

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  7. Wow just thinking of my little kiddo that has yet to put anything on paper for fear of “doing it wrong.” And the few that are still stringing letters together, and still more that are trying very hard to make letter sound recognition. September is very early for narrative writing with a prompt for my young first graders (really late kindergartners still). We are working very hard on building those writing muscles but still don’t get much past 15 minutes, with just a few exceptions. Best of luck!

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  8. We gave our first graders the stated prompts. It took them no longer than 30 minutes – most only took 15 – 20 minutes. However, there were a few that took 30 minutess. The children lasted longer with the narrative than the informational. Our team has not all agreed to the opinion unit (we are not in a common core state). We gave our assessments last week. (We read it as doing all in the beginning of school, and then another preassessment before the nonfiction unit which is later in the fall. Hope that was correct!?!)

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  9. Hi Stacey,
    Last year I did an on-demand pre and post writing assessments with my first graders. In September I would say the majority of my kids needed about 15-20 minutes of time for the pre-assessment and about 30-40 minutes for the post assessment at the end of the unit (In Oct./Nov.). Of course I had a few outliers who were finished in 5-10 minutes. However, they were each given 5 page booklets of stapled writing paper so they could write as much or as little as they felt necessary. I think it is appropriate for students to do a pre-assessment in September. But, I don’t think it would be appropriate for students to do a post assessment that early in the school year. I hope this helps.
    Val

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  10. In K most will be done in about 5 min…at least in my school. Most don’t have a preschool experience other than Head Start so letter ID is about all we get if we’re lucky.

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  11. We gave the on-demand narrative prompt with second graders last week. We allowed 30 minutes due to other time constraints. By my observations, most students were finished in 20 minutes. However, they did not have instruction based on The Units of Study materials in first grade, so that may have affected their stamina. I hope this is helpful!

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