The University of California requires incoming freshmen and women to take the Analytical Writing Placement Exam to determine their English placement. We use their model a lot in our high school English classes — both during our regular classes and for a beginning and ending year writing assessment we evaluate through use of an improvement rubric (see “Instead of seeing students as Far Below Basic or Advanced, we see them as learners”).
You can see an example of this kind of prompt (which requires students to read an essay and respond to it) at a previous post where I shared one my colleague and I developed for an article on Carol Dweck and the idea of a growth mindset.
Here’s an AWPE-style prompt based on a Bob Marley quote (we’re studying a unit on Jamaica) that my colleague Katie Hull Sypnieski and I developed (well, really, it was mostly her 🙂 ). You can download it here as a student hand-out, but I’ll also share it here:
“If she’s amazing, she won’t be easy. If she’s easy, she won’t be amazing. If she’s worth it, you won’t give up. If you give up, you’re not worthy . . . Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.” Bob Marley
In the above quotation, what is Bob Marley saying about love and relationships? To what extent do you agree with what Marley is saying? To support your opinion, be sure to include specific examples drawn from your own experience, your observations of others, or any of your reading.
Again, it’s very abbreviated — not the prompt itself, but what they are reading prior to their response. Typically, it’s an actual essay. But even a short quote like this can be good practice.
These kinds of prompts follow the “They Say, I Say”
Do you have similar examples of prompts (& the essays that the prompts refer to) that have worked well with your students? If so, leave examples in the comments and I’ll write a future post sharing them all.
Hi Larry. Thank you for sharing this post. I do have a quick question. The opening statement of this post caused me to pause : “The University of California requires incoming freshmen and women to take the Analytical Writing Placement Exam to determine their English placement’ Is this saying male and female incoming freshmen and women who are entering the school regardless of class year? or is it saying freshmen and freshwomen?
I loved your thoughts as a whole. I was just confused on that statement from USC.
Yup, I meant freshmen and freshwomen
I figured. Just seeing how radical USC really is 🙂
We do something similar with ACT prompts. They’re usually more about taking a side on a question, like “Should uniforms be required in public schools?” or “Should cell phones be allowed in schools?” The kids tend to find those easy to take a stand on.