English I and II STAAR EOC Test Prep- Writing

I have taught both English I and English II in Texas. Both grades have an English STAAR EOC test that includes a writing portion. On the English I test students have to write an expository essay. On the English II test they have to write a persuasive essay. I’ve put together the strategies and models I’ve used in my classroom into these materials that you can use. They can purchased in my TPT store. You can either buy a bundle for both ENG I and ENG II or purchase the one you need.

I am in Texas and originally created this for my English II students to help prepare them for the persuasive  or expository essay they would have to write on the STAAR English II or I EOC test. The advice and common mistakes are aimed towards the goal of passing that writing test. However, I have a PhD in Composition and have tried to create this unit to fit best practices for persuasive essay writing in any situation (whether for a standardized test or a dual credit class or in general).

I did not include a rubric because what you are evaluating can change greatly between standardized test, dual credit courses, or general classroom writing goals. If you are using this to prepare students to write a persuasive essay on a standardized test go to your state testing website and look for a rubric. Texas STAAR has a rubric and lined writing paper for the English I expository EOC essay or English II EOC persuasive essay. You can find released Texas STAAR tests here on the state website. You can find the rubrics for the writing portion of the STAAR English I and II EOC here along with other state writing resources.

Here is a preview of what it is in the persuasive bundle:
This writing kit is good for any persuasive essay needs, not just the Texas STAAR test! It has been updated and is now 27 pages long.

It includes:
– 5 pages of writing instructions handouts with detailed examples. It goes paragraph by paragraph.
– It has two versions on the example. One version has notes about the organizational structure.
– Tips & Common Mistakes to Avoid
– A list of transition/linking words
– A persuasive essay outline map for students who need a short structure guide
– Outline with the organization structure labeled
– Blank outline (some states allow blank organizers to be used on standardized tests)
– A list of types of evidence with definitions
– A list of 12 persuasive writing prompts
– 12 Persuasive Essay Writing Prompt Cards
– Notes for the teacher on how to use this kit

Here is a preview of what it is in the expository bundle:
This expository essay writing kit is 25 pages.

It includes:
– 4 pages of instructions on how to write the essay. It breaks the essay down paragraph by paragraph with examples. Includes the introduction with an attention getting device and thesis statement, body paragraph structure, transitions, conclusion, etc.
– An example essay with and without a dissection of its parts
– An outline graphic organizer with the components labeled
– A blank copy of the graphic organizer (some states allow this on state tests)
– A list of common mistakes and advice
– A handy outline map to briefly remind students of the structure (handy for students with IEPs for additional handouts)
– A list of transition (linking) words for student reference
– A list of 12 expository prompts
– A set of 12 expository prompt cards that can be printed and laminated for student use
– Notes for the teacher with tips on how to use this kit.

+More about the writing prompt cards+
The prompt cards allow for practice with various prompts. You can print each prompt on a different color paper (the duplicate of that prompt should be the same color as the original). You can laminate them then have students choose a topic at random to write about. The second time around they merely pick a different color to ensure they get a different topic. Included is a blank set of cards for your own prompts.

Hero’s Journey Short Story Creative Writing Project

Learning about hero’s stories or archetypes? Have students practice this with a creative writing assignment! This product will have students write a short story about a hero who goes on all 5 stages of the hero’s journey plot pattern archetype. It has an outline for that, dialogue guides, a rubric, and more.

There is an additional outline to expand the project to include other archetypes as well such as character archetypes, symbol archetypes, etc. The different outlines in this packet allow you to differentiate learning and challenge more advanced or older students. The basic outline is perfect for younger or average students. You can buy this project at my TPT store here.

10 pages!
– Plot Pattern Overview handout (explains all 5 stages)
– Instruction sheet with room for page length and deadline due date
– hero’s journey 5 stages outline (2 pages)
– other archetypes outline 2 page version
– other archetypes outline 1 page version
– Rubric
– Dialogue How-To (2 pages)
– A teacher’s guide explaining how it can be differentiated and how I have used it.

 

 

The outline: You will definitely want to use the 5 stages part of the outline. Whether you use the other archetypes is up to you. Things to consider are your students grade level and your goals. For middle school the 5 stages could be enough. For G/T middle school students or for the high school level you may want students to use additional archetypes. There are two versions of the other archetypes: a long version and a short one page version. The long one is for older grades or to challenge G/T students.

Normally I make a due date for the outline, then a separate due date for the story. I want to see the outline before students proceed to writing the story so I can make sure they are on track. Reviewing the outline allows you to make sure students understand the different parts of the assignment and allow you to clear up any points of confusion. For the story part you could assign a rough draft and have students peer workshop it in class before turning in a final draft. Or you can just do one final draft.

The rubric has a blank spot for points so you can weigh some categories more than others depending on your objectives for this assignment. I give students a copy of the rubric with the assignment prompt so they know what is expected of them and how to obtain the grade they want.

I included a handout over viewing the basics of writing dialogue. I find that some students have difficulty formatting their dialogue correctly and this handout can help.

There is a TED Talk* about the hero’s journey that could help explain the five stages of the hero’s journey. Just search What Makes a hero? – Matthew Winkler on YouTube or try this link: https://youtu.be/Hhk4N9A0oCA or this one: https://ed.ted.com/lessons/what-makes-a-hero-matthew-winkler

*Note: I am not selling this video, I am merely listing it as an additional public resource you can check out to supplement this lesson.

 

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Heros-Journey-Short-Story-Archetype-Creative-Writing-Project-3738776

Dystopia: Teaching Rebellion

Last year for my English II courses I have done a year long theme of dystopia in order to be able to make connections about themes across genres by authors from different countries (TEK E2.2A). We focused on the novel The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the play Antigone by Sophocles, and the memoir I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. We also tied these texts into the purposeful persuasion units.

We started off this handout by Read Write Think that lays out the definition and characteristics of a dystopia. We specifically focused on how dystopian texts have totalitarian government which Merriam-Webster defines as “of or relating to a political regime based on subordination of the individual to the state and strict control of all aspects of the life and productive capacity of the nation especially by coercive measures (such as censorship and terrorism)”.

Our fiction unit starts with Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games. She is an American author and it was published in 2008. Students began reading The Hunger Games novel on their own while taking notes about anything that meet the definition or characteristics of dystopia or totalitarian government. As they work through the book they take their notes on post-its looking for textual evidence that meets the characteristics of a totalitarian government from the handout I gave them. They write down the quote, chapter number, page number, and their name on a post-it note. When the reading is due they discuss their post-it notes in groups then add them to our textual evidence wall. It’s a long piece of poster paper on display in the room and each post-it added to it becomes a “brick” of evidence on the wall of textual evidence that we are building together. The top of our poster has the question listed: How is the world in the novel a dystopia with a totalitarian government? They having a reading schedule for deadlines for each part of the book. They discuss their analysis in small groups, we compare parts of the book to clips from the film, and we do various activities with the book in order to analyze it and make inferences. We read some articles about The Hunger Games to model the type of analysis they should be doing. One such article is Social Control & The Hunger Games by Sarah Ford. She even has great questions at the end that you can have students answer.

Throughout this process I have them choose some of what they see as their best post-it notes and place them on a graphic organizer where they write to the side how it is an example of a dystopia with a totalitarian government. They have to explain how that quote or the summary of that event meets a characteristic of a totalitarian government. This helps them practice analyzing textual evidence before we start the essay. As we finish up the novel unit they write an essay over them theme of the novel, specifically explaining how Katniss challenges these totalitarian characteristics as she fights to have agency over her own life and retain her individuality despite the state’s attempt to squash it and make her conform or die. They should use the textual evidence they collected on post-it notes and the graphic organizer. It all leads into the essay and serves as planning their evidence and analysis.

The post-it note handouts and essay prompt/rubric can be found on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Our drama unit features Antigone by Sophocles. It is an ancient Greek tragedy written around 441 BC. We start with an overview of the structure of Greek tragedies. The Kennedy Center Arts Edge has a great website for this which gives students everything they need to know about Greek theatre before we dive into the play. Like The Hunger Games, Antigone features a female protagonist of the same name who also challenges her government.

We read the play aloud as a class with students volunteering to read certain characters. We stop to summarize and analyze certain scenes along the way. When we are done reading the play I introduce them to archetypes. We start off with this YouTube video from TED-ED called “What Makes a Hero?” by Matthew Winkler. It explains the hero archetype and the hero’s journey. It even uses Katniss from The Hunger Games as an example.  This is a great handout that explains the term archetype, the different types of heroes and journeys, along with the situational, character, and symbolic archetypes. We use the handout to define a tragic hero (AKA transcendent hero) as “the hero of tragedy whose fatal flaw brings about his downfall, but not without achieving some kind of transforming realization or wisdom.”

Students are split into groups and each group is either assigned the character Creon or Antigone. Each group creates a poster with the characters name in the center and around it quotes that prove that he or she is a tragic hero. They write the quotes with the line and page numbers. Each group will present their textual evidence with the class creating a student lead discussion about how Antigone and Creon are both transcendent heroes. Later we compare Antigone to Katniss. Both are young women who go on an archetypal hero’s journey to challenge their totalitarian government as they fight to exercise their own agency. Both stories end differently- one lives and one dies thus making one a tragedy. Even though these texts are written in different time periods in different countries they share the common theme and a similar female protagonist.

During our powerful persuasion unit we focus on rhetoric and propaganda. Our textbook’s persuasive unit includes a selection of political ads: Daisy and America’s Back. It includes an explanation of visual and persuasive techniques used in advertising. The work in our textbook analyzing those ads covers TEKS 10B,12A-B, 12D, and 15D. We also learned other propaganda techniques such as logical fallacies. Students extended the project by working in small groups on an ad agency project. Each group was an ad agency responsible for a political campaign for a character either from The Hunger Games or Antigone. They had to come up with a commercial (like the ones we examined together) and a printed billboard poster using the persuasive techniques we learned. This allowed students to make connections between nonfiction and fiction across genres. Each group presented their ads to the class. We discussed how the government in The Hunger Games and Antigone utilizes powerful persuasion in an attempt to get characters such as Katniss and Antigone to do what they want. When that didn’t work those some government entities tried to use those persuasion techniques to turn the people against their female protagonist to no avail because ultimately Katniss and Antigone were more persuasive then President Snow or Creon.

 

I Am Malala shifts the focus to real life. We discuss what a memoir is and who Malala Yousafzai is. As a young girl her and her family actively spoke out against the Taliban in their home town in Pakistan. She actively blogged about her experiences and her thoughts on the local terrorism. As the terrorist community grew they made it more difficult for girls to go to school before outright banning it. She defied this and spoke out against it, leading them to attempt to kill her. They shot her in the head and she survived. She continues to fight for girls education and is the youngest ever Nobel Prize laureate. Her memoir details those life experiences. There is a young student edition of the memoir as well that has more photos and things aimed towards students.

Students read the memoir on their own and in class we discussed the totalitarian characteristics of where she lived in Pakistan that lead her to free as well as propaganda used by the Taliban. We extend the study to a research project where students research the persuasion and propaganda that terrorist use to target people and expand their communities. We study how Malala herself uses persuasive techniques to continue her activism. We compare her to the fictional heroes Katniss and Antigone, seeing how these themes and archetypes apply to real life.  We compare and contrast the moral dilemma’s that all three heroines face and discuss the overall themes of standing up for your beliefs / rebellion.

A few of the many TEKS covered throughout these units:

E2.2A Compare and contrast differences in similar themes expressed in different time periods.

E2.2B Analyze archetypes (e.g., journey of a hero, tragic flaw) in mythic, traditional and classical literature.

E2.2C: Relate the figurative language of a literary work to its historical and cultural setting.

E2.5B Analyze differences in characters’ moral dilemmas in works of fiction across different countries or cultures.

Organization – Assignments and Makeup Work

This year I have faced some big changes as I changed schools. I went from teaching seven 45 minute classes a day (each one a different prep) to a modified block schedule with six classes being 1 hour and 30 minute (alternating every day) and two 45 minute classes that meet every day. I only 2 preps. I love the new schedule. Here is how I dealt with some of the organizational challenges.

I created a spreadsheet on Google Sheets that I use to track what I have assigned or shown/discussed during the week. I try to keep all of my English classes the same but sometimes they get off schedule due to assemblies, holidays, etc. My spreadsheet helps me make sure that I remember where we left off and what we still need to do. A great thing about Google Sheets is that I can access it from anywhere with an internet connection.

I also created a calendar in a Google Doc for my students to help them keep track of homework, quizzes, and tests. They have a printed copy that they keep in their portfolio to record due dates on. The Google Doc is also linked under the about tab of our Google Classroom so students can check it if they don’t have their printed copy with them. It’s also nice to email the link to parents that want to help their child stay on top of their work. I took the weekends off the calendar to make more space for the other days. At the end of the month I save a copy of it for my records  then on the original I just change it to the next month so the link remains the same.  I like that I can also link to any relevant website. For our vocabulary quizzes I link to our Quizlet deck for that week. I collect them at the end of the month and add it to their participation grade. They must have added all due dates to it to earn their participation points.

I keep a folder on my desk for anything that I have to reference throughout the week such as master copies, copies I use to demonstrate, a list of students I need to check up with, etc.

Absent Work

Keeping up with absent work can be a challenge. Students who know in advance that they will be gone (such as going to a school sanctioned event or activity or a scheduled in advance doctors appointment) must send me an email to request the work they will miss in advance. The emails help remind me to get it ready and help me create a record of who asked for their work and who did not.

For other absences I have a hanging file folder pocket chart on the wall. Each class period has a folder. Students who were absent are reminded to check their class folder for any assignments they missed as well as checking the Google Classroom. This makes it super easy for me to keep up with missing work. I just write down the students name and date on the paper and stick in the folder during class. That way I don’t have to search for it later and the students know where to find it when they return to school. They are expected to check it when they return and they generally have 2 school days to complete and return it unless it was a long absence.

Coming soon: Organizing Paper