I’ve been spending some time lately trying to figure out how I can help my students respond to writing prompts a little better. The primary strategy I’ve taught is having students use this four-step approach that was suggested to me by my colleague Katie Hull:

1. Read the prompt
2. Circle important words and words that tell you do something
3. Number your paper 1, 2, 3, 4. Next to each number, In your own words, write the three or four things the prompt tells you to do.
4. Write your essay using that outline as your guide

That works out well, and is easy for students to remember, but I’m always interested in developing better writing strategies.

Earlier this month, Jim Burke shared a one-sheet handout that he uses with his AP students titled How To Write A Timed Essay. It’s an excellent piece and worth reviewing, though too advanced for my mainstream ninth-grade and English Language Learner students.

One of the comments on his post mentioned an “ABCD” strategy to help young writers that was developed by author/teacher Kelly Gallagher. After “googling” it, I was led to a PDF consisting of materials from an Ohio Research Center webcast on “Using Constructed ResponseQuestions to Foster Student Thinking, Writing, and Test-Taking Skills.” (NOTE: that particular PDF is no longer available, but here’s a similar resource).

There is a great description of Gallagher’s ABCD strategy there on page 17 and is designed as a student-handout. It comes from his book, Teaching Adolescent Writers. I have to admit, though I’m familiar with his books on reading, I didn’t know about this one. ABCD stands for “Attack, Brainstorm, Choose, Detect.” His “attack” phase is very similar to what I do already, but his other suggestions are simple and, most importantly, are designed in a way that my students could remember and implement them.

I love not having to reinvent the wheel!