FAQ: When my students type their responses on a state assessment, they feel as if they are filling a limitless “window.” They don’t know if they have written a lot or not enough. They don’t have three lined pages to gauge their length. How can we prepare them to know what is enough?
ANSWER: To help students meet the mark, you’re going to want to know the average word count for a “passing” writing at your grade level. You can determine this in Indiana by opening the benchmark examples housed on the IDOE website. Download the Released Items from last year for your grade level. Scroll through the PDF document until you get to the actual student samples. Highlight and copy the provided sample that scored a passing Level 4. Drop that into a Word document to determine the word count.
Let’s pretend the passing level for your grade had a word count of 300 words. Knowing that, have students type their next in-class prompt responses directly onto the computer. When done, have them compare their word-count total to the goal of 300 words or more. They need to know how 300 words “feels.” Did they easily accomplish that in the allotted time? Do they need to think and type faster? Do they need to add more detail? How many paragraphs is that? About how many sentences in each paragraph is that?
Kids need to know what their writing looks and feels like against the measuring stick of the passing benchmarks.