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How To Write A Common Core Writing Prompt

April 26, 2017

Writing is a skill that all students need to master in order to become college and career ready. In order to have our students write and respond appropriately to a task, we as teachers must first know how to develop and assess a writing prompt. In this article, you will learn how to write a Common Core writing prompt, and review examples you can use in your classroom.

 

 

According to the first Common Core Writing Standard, students must, “Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.”  Regardless of grade or content, students must be capable of developing an argument and supporting their reasoning with evidence.   

 

It is important that we as teachers are able to create effective writing prompts because without pre-planning and designing an appropriate prompt, it is likely that the students will not fulfill our expectations.  Therefore, we need to ensure that we fulfill certain requirements in designing the prompt before we present it to the students. 

 

Below is a checklist to review before assigning a writing prompt based off the first writing standard.

  • Do the students have a solid understanding of the content they will use?

  • Does the content/material provide multiple perspectives or opinions?

  • Does the content/material have enough evidence to site in order to support all viewpoints?

  • Does the content/material allow for a counter-claim (for high school)

Do the students have a solid understanding of the content they will use?

 

The first step in developing a prompt aligned to the first writing standard is to ensure that students have a solid understanding of the content they are learning.  This is critical because students need to develop opinions or claims based on the content, and use evidence to support their reasoning.  If students do not have a solid understanding of the content, then their opinion or claim might be weak, and therefore they will not be able to support their reasoning with solid evidence, resulting in a futile response.  It is important that students understand that although their opinion or claim is important and acknowledged, without strong evidence, it is inadequate.

 

Does the content/material provide multiple perspectives or claims/opinions?  

 

Ensuring that the material is capable of producing multiple perspectives or claims is essential in order to allow students to independently develop a strong opinion or claim.  If the material only allows for one perspective, then the students’ writing will not be unique or as strong since they can and will simply restate what they learned.  Therefore, they will not develop their own opinion or claim, defeating the purpose of the task.  By providing material that allows for multiple perspectives and opinions, the students will have to “sift through” the content in order to develop their own claim. 

 

Does the content/material have enough evidence to site in order to support all viewpoints?

 

Not only is it important that the material provide the ability to have multiple perspectives, but also that there is enough evidence to support any conclusion that is drawn.  Similar to “sifting through” the material in order to develop a claim/opinion, students should have to evaluate multiple pieces of evidence in order to determine whether or not it is important and reliable in order to support their claim.  Therefore, the teacher must ensure that the material provides ample amounts of evidence that can be used to support the students’ claim or opinion.  It is important to note that the material does not have to be in the form of text, but can be video, images or a class activity.  

 

Does the content/material allow for a counter-claim (for high school)

 

Finally, according to the Common Core standard W.9-10.B, students must be able to “Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level and concerns.”

 

Therefore, if you are a high school teacher, the material must provide for at least two opposing viewpoints in order for the students to develop their own claim as well as a counter claim.    This step links directly to step #3 since it is imperative that there is enough evidence in the material to not only support a claim, but also a counterclaim.  

 

Once you have completed the checklist and have deemed the material appropriate for a writing task asking the students to develop a claim/opinion, it is then time to develop the prompt.  Since you are asking students to develop an opinion or claim about a topic, the prompt should be written in the form of a question.  

 

Examples of prompts include: 

  • Was Napoleon Bonaparte a hero or a villain? 

  • Was the narrator in “Tell Tale Heart” sane or insane?

  • What is your favorite weekend activity?

  • What is the most effective renewable energy?

All of these prompts have at least two possible claims/opinions, and within each, the students have numerous amounts of evidence that can support either side.  It is also important that you provide students with the writing requirements when completing their response.   

 

An example of this is: 

 

In your response, make sure you include a claim/opinion, evidence to support your claim, analysis of your evidence and a counter claim (high school). 

 

While a written response might be feasible for all material, when creating a writing prompt that assess the first anchor standard, it is imperative that the material address all of the attributes for creating an effective writing prompt.  As you review your week and reflect on the material that you will be teaching, think about how you can create a writing prompt from the content.  Do the students have a solid understanding of the material Does the content/material provide multiple perspectives or opinions?   Does the content/material have enough evidence to site in order to support all viewpoints?  Does the content/material allow for a counter-claim (for high school)?  If you can not answer “yes” to all of these questions, what additions do you need to make in order to develop an effective writing prompt?

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