Monday, March 26, 2012

Happy STAAR Eve -- Tips for 7th Graders

If you're sitting for the 7th grade STAAR writing test tomorrow and Wednesday, here are some things to keep in mind:

Day 1 -- You'll see four revising and editing passages, each with a set of questions about possible changes for you to make. You'll also see one of the three essays -- this one will be either narrative or expository.

Day 2 -- You'll see the other two essays. Of the three essays, two will be of the same type (narrative or expository), and the third will be of the other type. You have four hours each day.

Last minute tips for you:

1. Read through the revising/editing passages quickly. Make a note of the verb tense out in the margin (present or past, generally). This will help you make decisions about verbs in the multiple choice questions, because the verb tense should not change.

2. As you're reading, highlight things that sound wrong. You don't have to fix them -- just mark them. This will help you in the questions, because you'll already have the right error in mind for many of the questions this way.

3. Use a dictionary to help you figure out word spellings. Even if you have to take the time to ask for a dictionary, it is worth not missing the question. Don't be lazy!

4. For the narrative essay, remember that it's personal -- write in first person. Even if you're writing about something that didn't happen to you, write as if it did. Also, remember to be believable. The reader doesn't know you, but if your story doesn't sound like it could have happened to someone by the 7th grade, you will suffer.

5. For the expository essay, pick a side of the argument in response to the quotation. If you want to do an "it depends" essay, you have to give examples supporting both sides. The evidence is what the readers will use to grade your work.

6. EDIT YOUR WORK! Spelling and grammar count this year more than they did with TAKS.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Donald Sutherland and "The Hunger Games"

Is "The Hunger Games" just another two hours at the movies? Or could it lead to social change? See what Donald Sutherland has to say.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Writing Tip of the Week: Stephen King

This week's tip will help you out if you are about to write a narrative for the STAAR or EOC in English I in Texas, or if you are just interested in writing fiction.

Stephen King had this to say in his memoir On Writing. 

One key to strong fiction is having honest, authentic characters. The people in your stories should all have flaws -- as well as strengths. You want your reader to feel that your characters are human beings so that your reader will connect to them on an emotional level. It is that connection that will pull your readers along with you.

Happy writing!

Special for the Spring SAT

There are only two more testing dates for the SAT during the 2011-2012 school year: May 5 and June 12. The registration deadline for the May 5 administration is coming up -- April 6.

Because time is short, we are offering a special for students sitting for one of these two tests. After you've signed up (click on the "How to Use our System" tab), we will send you a prompt that you can try for free. Feedback will come within 1-2 days. If you are happy with our service but don't want to subscribe, you can have your student submit as many SAT practice essays as you want -- for $9 each. Click the dropdown on "Membership Options" and choose the SAT Writing option.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Writing Tip of the Week

Interested in becoming a sharper writer? This week's tip comes from the New York Times bestselling author Donald Miller. The skinny? Adjectives no, verbs yes. To see where he's coming from, and to see a cool example of annotation, click here.

Image credit: Mark Twain (1907). Photographer: A.F. Bradley. Public domain.

Mark Twain didn't like adjectives either. He said, "As to the adjective...when in doubt, strike it out."

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Free Seminars on Writing for the SAT and AP English Tests

Our next round of seminars starts March 20. We'll be holding one in each of the five branches of the Plano Public Library System. Click here for a full schedule and to sign up. It's free!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New Writing Prompts...

We have new writing prompts for SAT Writing, AP English Lit, AP English Language, AP U.S. History, and the Texas STAAR/EOC assessments for grades 7-11. You can see them here:

7th grade STAAR (narrative)
7th grade STAAR (expository)
Texas EOC for English III (persuasive)
Texas EOC for English III (literary-analytical)
Texas EOC for English II (persuasive)
Texas EOC for English II (expository)
Texas EOC for English I (literary)
Texas EOC for English I (expository)
AP English Lit
AP English Language
AP U.S. History

Feel free to use these in your classroom -- no commercial uses, please see licensing below.

If your student would like to use our feedback service, give them these instructions:

Get a parent and log onto the Internet.
Click on “I’m a Student.”
Then, enter “glhrb6” when it asks you for the group code (all lower case).
Then, enter your information and submit it.
Then, you’ll be a part of our group. Welcome!
Check out the sample assignments, and give one a try. The Edmodo system looks a lot like Facebook, and it’s very simple to use.
We will email you feedback with 2-3 days of your submission. The first evaluation is free of charge.
Then, we will send you a message through Edmodo with more information, to see if your parents would like to subscribe to our service for the rest of this school year – or this school year and the next.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Special for Parents of 7th Graders

Because the 7th grade STAAR Writing test is getting so close, we are offering a special offer for essay feedback.

Even if you've already submitted your free essay, you can submit more without subscribing for the rest of the school year.

$9 -- one STAAR 7th grade essay
$25 -- unlimited STAAR 7th grade essays between now and March 27 (the testing date)

Click "Buy Now" and choose the dropdown option to get started!

Let Your Essays Take You to the Movies!

Submit one FREE essay for feedback by Monday, March 5, at 11:00 P.M. Central time to be entered for a drawing for a $10 Cinemark gift card! This includes people who have already submitted their free essay to this point...