They write essays all the time.
(*Facepalm*) the issue is, the ACT’s writing section is significantly diffent enough from the writing normally done at school that I see a lot of students underperform in a fashion that is completely preventable. Typically “good” writers are receiving scores of 6 or 8 (out of 12), when they must certanly be getting decidedly more numbers that are competitive.
Although it’s not necessarily an 11th grade English teacher’s “job” to do ACT/SAT prep or even “teach to the test”, there is a problematic reality that if teachers don’t get involved a little, most students will not fully grasp this knowledge and/or skills anywhere else. And that, my teacher friend, is worrisome.
What exactly’s going on, and what are the easiest steps an English teacher can take to aid juniors be much more ready?
Here you will find the biggest culprits:
1. The timing is much more intense than school. It’s 30 minutes total, including reading the prompt while the brainstorm that is entire draft, and proofread process. That task could be daunting if students get writer’s block, have test anxiety, hardly understand the prompt when you look at the heat regarding the moment, or struggle to wrestle their ideas into submission.
Then they’ll need help to cope if your students haven’t done timed writing in a while, are accustomed to 45 minutes, or aren’t proficient at it. Check out my timed writing unit to help students get practice completing a cohesive draft in a shorter time.
2. Students do not know the (new) rubric.When the ACT changed the writing test in 2016, the prompt style AND the rubric both changed. The assessment is not any longer just a typical 5-paragraph (or so) opinion essay. Students are meant to also:
- acknowledge, support, or refute other viewpoints
- provide some combination of context, implications, significance, etc.
- recognize flaws in logic or assumptions made in a viewpoint, deploying it for their advantage if required
- (still write a cohesive essay with a thesis and a variety of evidence, as before)
all in thirty minutes or less. English teachers might help by at least going over the rubric in class, if you don’t assigning an ACT-style essay that gets assessed included in the class.
3. The linguistic bar is high. Aside from the content characteristics described in #2, students are meant to have decent grammar, varied sentence structures once and for all flow, transitions within and between paragraphs, and really great fiction or synonyms.
English teachers: if for example the writing rubrics or style that is gradingn’t typically address these, consider bringing it up in class, assessing of these characteristics from the next essay, or reading over a mentor text that DOES meet this bar (see #4).
4. They need certainly to see examples. I highly recommend that students head to this connect to not only read a sample 6/6 essay, but compare it to a 4 or 5 essay to note its differences. I do a compare/contrast activity for this reason when I teach my ACT writing lessons. The stakes are high enough that it’s worth groing through a mentor text to see what the expectations are and debunk the basic indisputable fact that it’s impossible to complete.
The Bottom Line i have been tutoring the ACT for enough time to identify the differences between your old and new versions, as well as without “teaching to your test”, there are easy steps educators can take to greatly help juniors stay at or over the national average and achieve their college dreams. Using even some of these tips may help students be a bit more ready on test day, and a lot more grateful which they had you as an instructor.