In the final weeks before the NAPLAN writing task, 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.

Should I correct the spelling?

However, you can make a difference to students’ writing − and their NAPLAN results − if you focus on the high level ‘authorial’ skills:

  1.  Audience – 6 marks
  2. Text structure – 4 marks
  3. Ideas – 5 marks
  4. Persuasive devices/Character & setting – 4 marks
  5. Vocabulary – 5 marks
  6. Cohesion – 4 marks
  7. Paragraphing – 2−3 marks
  8. Sentence structure – 6 marks

[Related Resources] Narrative Marking Guide and Persuasive Marking Guide

Three Action Activities to get 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 to build their capacity to generate ideas. Students will soon learn that their first ideas are not always the most original or their best.

Brainstorming Illustration

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.
  • Award 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.

[Related blog] Top three brainstorming tips

2. Sharing the Load

Think of all the marks available for good quality planning skills:

  • Text structure (4 marks),
  • Cohesion (4 marks),
  • 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.
    Sharing the load makes brainstorming a breeze and teaches students highly effective planning skills.
  • Finally, ask each student to write ONE paragraph to create a full text.
  • 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.
Illustration

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.

  • 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 the best one.
  • 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.
  • Bonus marks: Award extra points for Persuasive devices (4 marks), Vocabulary (5 marks) and Sentence structure (6 marks).

[Related blog] Orient, engage and persuade with a Sizzling Start

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.

Looking for more?

Head to our NAPLAN writing samples page for examples to help improve your students’ NAPLAN Writing results with actual marked test samples by Seven Steps founder, Jen McVeity.