Writing is an increasingly important component of classroom and achievement testing. Since the SAT has included a writing assessment, schools have scrambled to develop writing skills in all student populations. On the other hand, writing has been a component of Advanced Placement classes from the beginning, around the early 1950’s, according to the College Board.
While students should get the bulk of their writing instruction in English classes, other subjects such as History provide the opportunity for teachers to show students how to apply skills across the curriculum.
The First Paragraph
The five paragraph essay is an essential framework to build writing success. At the very beginning of the class year, diagnostic exercises should make teachers aware of deficiencies and strengths. Students should be provided with some general guidance, such as appropriate colloquialisms. An inappropriate colloquialism is the use of Facebook and text messaging abbreviations. “Ppl” for people, and “ur” for you are, are examples.
Classroom activities where the students develop a logical procedure for preparing an essay can begin by focusing on the introductory paragraph. Students commonly have difficulty providing a general idea and direction to a composition without going into specifics. The clearest skill to be taught involves focusing on a main idea, defining the idea, and explaining the vocabulary.
That is why it is important to teach children to think in line with “Before I write my essay, I must understand what I want to write, what I want to say and whether the reader will understand my idea with these words?” Having come to such reflections and performing them, you can be sure that the training was successful.
Defining an Adjective in the Opening Paragraph
When an adjective is used in the prompt, it is important for the writer to provide an empirical definition of the word or phrase. The Free Response Prompt #3 on the 2009 AP Government test stated “In the United States Congress, the majority party exerts a substantial influence….”
In this particular case, the adjective “substantial” provides the writer with a strong first paragraph. The student would need to provide an empirical, logical definition for the entire point to make sense. The specifics of the prompt can then provide the writer with enough specific material for the three paragraphs of the body of the response.
The “Prior Knowledge” Opening
The opening paragraph can be used to display a student’s background or prior knowledge. With an English prompt. On the 2011 English Literature and Composition test, one of the Free Response prompts concerned a poem, An Echo Sonnet by Robert Pack.
The response could open with a definition of a sonnet, the titles of other sonnets, and/or other poems with a similar echo format. The student could then focus on a specific set of techniques by connecting with the background information in the opening paragraph. This would display a student’s comprehensive knowledge of the form and use of that knowledge to effectively analyze the sonnet.
Developing an effective opening strategy for an essay, especially an essay that is part of the SAT or and AP exam is necessary in providing an accurate assessment of a student’s knowledge. Students might be able to develop a body of knowledge in an essay without synthesis, without tying concepts together. The prompts often provide focus, it’s up to the student to develop a conceptual framework.