They write essays all the time.
(*Facepalm*) the issue is, the ACT’s writing section differs from the others enough through the writing normally done in school that I see lots of students underperform in a fashion that is wholly preventable. Typically “good” writers are becoming scores of 6 or 8 (out of 12), if they must certanly be getting more competitive numbers.
Although it’s not necessarily an 11th grade English teacher’s “job” to do ACT/SAT prep or even to “teach towards the test”, there’s a problematic reality that when teachers do not get involved a little, most students will not fully grasp this knowledge and/or skills anywhere else. And therefore, my teacher friend, is worrisome.
Just what exactly’s going on, and what are the easiest steps an English teacher can take to simply help juniors be much more ready?
Here are the biggest culprits:
1. The timing is much more intense than school. It is thirty minutes total, including reading the prompt together with entire brainstorm, draft, and proofread process. That task can be daunting if students get writer’s block, have test anxiety, do not understand the prompt in the heat of the brief moment, or find it difficult 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. Have a look at my timed writing unit to help students get practice completing a cohesive draft in a shorter time.
2. Students don’t know the (new) rubric.When the ACT changed the writing test in 2016, the style that is prompt the rubric both changed. The assessment isn’t any longer just a typical 5-paragraph (or so) opinion essay. Students are meant to also:
- acknowledge, support, or refute other viewpoints
- provide some mix of context, implications, significance, etc.
- recognize flaws in logic or assumptions produced in a viewpoint, using it with their advantage if necessary
- (still write a essay that is cohesive a thesis and many different evidence, as before)
all in thirty minutes or buy essay less. English teachers can really help by at least going over the rubric in class, or even assigning an essay that is ACT-style gets assessed as part of the class.
3. the bar that is linguistic high. Besides the content characteristics described in #2, students are meant to have decent grammar, varied sentence structures for good flow, transitions within and between paragraphs, and extremely great fiction or synonyms.
English teachers: if for example the writing rubrics or grading style don’t typically address these, consider bringing it up in class, assessing for those characteristics regarding the next essay, or reading over a mentor text that DOES meet this bar (see #4).
4. They have to see examples. I highly recommend that students head to this connect to not just read a sample 6/6 essay, but compare it to a 4 or 5 essay to see its differences. Once I teach my ACT writing lessons, i actually do a compare/contrast activity that is why. The stakes are high enough that it’s worth groing through a mentor text to see just what the expectations are and debunk the basic proven fact that you will never complete.
The Bottom Line I’ve been tutoring the ACT for enough time to identify the differences between your old and new versions, and also without “teaching to your test”, you can find simple actions educators may take to help juniors stay at or above the national average and achieve their college dreams. Using even several of those tips will help students be a bit more ready on test day, and a lot more grateful which they had you as an instructor.