11 minute essay, Assessments, Secondary English, STAAR, state assessment, Test Prep, Texas

Timing is Everything- Using timed essays to teach expository writing

A few years ago I was teaching 9th grade. Of course this meant that I had to prepare the students for the expository essay portion of the English I EOC. From a friend, I heard about timed essays. Once I started using timed essays, I have never looked back. I have used them with 9th graders as well as 7th graders who also have an expository essay to write for our state test (STAAR in Texas).

You can find tons of timed informational/expository essay products in my store. You can buy individual presentations for $3.00, or you can buy bundles of 3 for $7.20.

Here is the lesson cycle I use for my timed essays:

Day One- Write 1st timed informational essay. Stress the golden rule timed essay writing practice- never stop writing! Have students complete their first essay and turn in the draft to you. This whole lesson will only take 15-20 minutes in total, so it’s easy to combine with something else you are covering. I like to do their first one with a topic that is tied to what we are currently reading.

Day Two- Write 2nd timed essay and take it up. You’ll have less instruction to give since they have already done one, so this one shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes total.

Day Three- Write 3rd timed essay and take it up. Again, this one should only take about 15 minutes total.

Day Four (you can also do this right after writing the 3rd essay)- After the students have done this 3 times, I give them the scoring rubric for the state writing exam, and we go over what the state is looking for when grading their expository/informational essays. I show them several examples from the released essays, and we score them together as a class.

Depending on how long that lesson takes, you can go on and do the next part, or you can wait until the next class period.

Day Five- I give them back all 3 of their essays, and I ask them to choose the one they think they can revise and draft to make the best essay they can. I give them a sheet of paper that looks exactly like the essay answer sheet on the test, and I ask them to revise and edit, then write the final draft on that sheet putting their name ON THE BACK.

Day Six- The next class they turn in their essays. Then we pass them around and score them. I will read a few examples first (randomly chosen from the stack), and we score them as a class. After we have done that a couple of times, we start passing them around in a circle, and everyone gets to score the essays. I usually number them and take the names off altogether.

Day Seven- During the next class, they get their essay back with an average score, and then my score if it didn’t match.

In the next week, we will write a couple more timed essays, and they get better at drafting, revising, and editing in the span of a class period which mimics the time restraints they might have on their state test.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of how I use the timed essays in my class. Please comment or email me at kourtney@johnstonselagems.com with any questions. Have a great day!