At this point in the year, the state writing tests dominate instruction in many schools. For my new book, Teaching Middle School Writers
, I conducted a national survey of 1500 students. The survey revealed that students have a rich writing life outside of school; they treasure this life because they can choose to write about topics they care about—topics they're passionate about. I think we can offer "test prep" along with choice in writing topics. I recommend that teachers simulate the state tests every 6 to 8 weeks by inviting students to respond to a writing prompt. Use their writing to identify what skills need reteaching and present mini-lessons on these topics. During interim times, students can choose topics, even within a genre such as persuasive or narrative writing. I find that students do well on tests when they plan in detail, use the writing process, and have been taught writing craft and technique.
Please weigh in with your thoughts and ideas.