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NIFL-ASSESSMENT 2005: [NIFL-ASSESSMENT:924] Re: Writing Prompts?

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From: Suzanne Grant (
Date: Thu Feb 17 2005 - 16:17:40 EST

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Subject: [NIFL-ASSESSMENT:924] Re: Writing Prompts?
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Hello all,

In response to Marie's question, the REEP Writing Assessment currently
has 4 available prompts (two developed by staff at REEP and two
developed by the Center for Educational Assessment at UMass). Both UMass
and REEP are working on additional test prompts. So, are there dozens
and dozens of prompts that people can select from? No.

In an earlier posting, Linda noted that it takes a long time to develop
viable prompts, and we would add, particularly for accountability
purposes. However, not all prompts need to be put through the rigor that
the CASAS and REEP prompts have been. There are certainly dozens and
dozens of good prompts that can be used effectively in a classroom
setting to develop and assess writing. These are some of the questions
we ask and the characteristics that we look for in a writing prompt -
both for testing and classroom purposes:

Questions to answer before prompt development: Who will take the tests?
What levels of students?

Characteristics of Effective Prompts
The topic:
  Has a controlling idea that assists with organization & development.
  Generates a variety of responses.
  Adjusts to students' abilities and life experiences (Everyone can
write something about the topic.)
  Has a universal subject. Does not require knowledge about a specific
  Generates a variety of tenses and structures.
  Provides an "out". Students can choose whether or not to take an
emotional risk.
  Is one you'd like to write about.

So, can anyone develop a prompt for the classroom? Why not?

In terms of how students can practice their writing before the test: At
REEP, students develop their writing skills by writing about a variety
of topics. In the case of the lifeskills topics in our curriculum,
students can write about their jobs or job goals in the work unit or
write to elected officials about challenges immigrants face in the
community unit or write family histories in the parenting unit. Not all
writing topics/practice need to relate to lifeskills. Important people
in the students' lives and life experiences are also engaging topics.
Feel free to pursue REEP's on-line curriculum for more writing ideas:

In the classroom as in the REEP Writing Assessment, pre-writing
activities are an essential step in the writing process. For those using
the REEP Writing Assessment, we also stress the importance of practicing
the types of pre-writing activities that will be found on the test
(group brainstorming and pair conversation activities) since students
should not be introduced to new types of activities during a test.

With respect to sharing the rubric with students: by all means! It is
important for students to know the standards against which they are
being assessed. Also, after the students' writing has been assessed with
the rubric, the next step in the students' writing development is
articulated in the next level of the rubric. For example, a student
whose structures can best be described as "restricted to basic patterns"
can see where he needs to go next  - "compound, complex sentences with
more control of present and past tense."    

Keep those questions and ideas coming,
Suzanne Grant and Pat Thurston
Arlington, Virginia

>>> 02/17/05 7:15 AM >>>
Hi everyone,
I was wondering about the writing prompt end of things with the REEP
(and other writing assessment tools as well).  Do you have dozens of
prompts that people can select?  Are they available for teachers and
students to see and practice with beforehand?  Can anyone develop a
prompt?  How does that all work?
How do folks PRACTICE their writing before they get to the test part
also?  Can they use the rubric in class as well, not just as an
Sorry, that might be 2 questions in there! 
marie cora
Moderator, NIFL Assessment Discussion List, and 
Coordinator/Developer LINCS Assessment Special Collection at

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