Test questions requiring students to write responses in paragraph form are becoming a standard part of student evaluations. Previously, most written tests, especially at the state level, were composed of multiple choice answers.
This change comes from the Common Core’s requirement for more critical thinking by students. They need to be able to cite evidence, explain their reasoning, summarize a passage, and draw conclusions. They need to use logic and write coherently in complete sentences.
It’s hard, especially for third graders new to this kind of thinking and writing. Here’s why.
- Students make up evidence from previous reading or life experience, not realizing they must use only the evidence presented in a reading selection.
- Students offer one piece of evidence when two or three examples are called for.
- Students forget to include the evidence.
- Students quote the evidence correctly but fail to connect it to the main idea.
- Students provide irrelevant details.
- Students misinterpret what is required of them. If the directions ask students to conclude, they might summarize. If the directions ask students to describe, they might identify.
- Students do not stick to the point; they go off on tangents.
- Students write using incomplete or illogical thoughts.
- Students write around a topic without ever responding directly to the question asked.
- Students leave out information which they take for granted the reader will know.
- Students tire or become distracted before they are done writing a response. Their responses seem to stop in the middle of a thought.
Parents and teachers can help students overcome these problems, but it takes practice. We’ll talk about how in coming blogs.