Having mastered the Seven Steps techniques, you should be well prepared for this year’s NAPLAN writing task! Our top tip in the final few weeks is to focus on the ‘authorial’ side of writing, (worth 36−7 marks) NOT the ‘secretarial’ side (worth 11 marks).
So, forget about spelling and punctuation for just now. If you have poor spellers, ESL students or kids with a learning difficulty in your class you know spelling and punctuation are an ongoing challenge. You certainly can’t make a significant difference in a few weeks.
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However, you can make a difference to students’ writing − and their NAPLAN results − if you focus on the high level ‘authorial’ skills:
- Audience (6 marks)
- Text structure (4 marks)
- Ideas (5 marks)
- Persuasive devices/Character & setting (4 marks)
- Vocabulary (5 marks)
- Cohesion (4 marks)
- Paragraphing (2−3 marks)
- Sentence structure (6 marks)
Here are three activity ideas to get you started:
1. Brainstorming Brilliance
The NAPLAN marking rubric awards 5 marks for ‘Ideas’. Coming up with great ideas is the key to great writing, and the good news is that you can train students to be more creative. Practise brainstorming ideas for different persuasive and narrative topics, students will soon learn that their first ideas are not the most original ideas.
For a Persuasive Writing task, you need three strong ideas for the main body paragraphs. If you want three great ideas, aim to come up with about TEN ideas for and against the topic before picking a side and selecting the three best ideas.
For a Narrative Writing task, you only need one great idea so aim to come up with about TEN ideas and pick the best one.
Ask students to brainstorm ideas for a persuasive or narrative topic in groups. Give them TWO minutes to brainstorm as many ideas as possible. Give the groups a point for each idea that they came up with.
Ask each group to share their best idea(s) and have a class vote on which group had the best idea(s) overall for 5 bonus points. The group with the most points wins.
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2. Sharing the Load
Think of all the marks available for good quality planning skills: Text structure (4 marks), Cohesion (4 marks) and Paragraphing (3 marks). However, students often end up cramming all their ideas into the first two paragraphs, then they repeat and waffle for the rest of the writing. Practice planning persuasive and narrative texts using the Story Graph templates and show students the importance of a great plan.
Ask students to form groups of five and pick an idea(s) from the Brainstorming Brilliance activity. Give students another FIVE minutes to brainstorm ideas for each paragraph/section and plot them on the Persuasive or Narrative Story Graph template. Finally, ask each student writes ONE paragraph to create a full text. Sharing the load makes brainstorming a breeze and teaches students highly effective planning skills.
Once the groups have finished writing get them to share their completed texts with the class. As a class award marks for Text structure (4 marks), Cohesion (4 marks) and Paragraphing (3 marks). Give additional bonus marks for Persuasive devices (4 marks), Vocabulary (5 marks) and Sentence structure (6 marks). The group with the most points wins.
3. Five Minute Fast Starts Game Show
There are BIG points awarded in NAPLAN for engaging the Audience (6 marks). Practise writing Sizzling Starts for narrative and persuasive topics that immediately engage the reader.
Most people know how this activity works; give students five topics and give them FIVE minutes to write FIVE Sizzling Starts (one per minute).
Get students to share their Sizzling Starts in groups and decide who has the best start for each topic. Hopefully it will be a different student for each one.
For each topic one person from each group will read out their Sizzling Start. The class then vote on whose was the best. Award a point to the best start for each topic, the group with the most points wins.
You can do this with either Persuasive or Narrative topics or a mixture of the two. Refer to the ‘Top Twenty Topics’ section of the Writing Essentials resource for topic ideas.
Bonus marks: Award extra points for Persuasive devices (4 marks), Vocabulary (5 marks) and Sentence structure (6 marks).
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Engaging Your Students
The key is to turn NAPLAN preparation into a game. Students will immediately be motivated to win and won’t even realise how hard they are working. Above all, have fun! NAPLAN is only one small part of the writing curriculum.
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