Many people like surprises. With the end of summer vacation, a surprise might be waiting for teachers at their school in the form of ACT®* scores. For students who tested in the spring, scores are being released to schools in August.
Supporting Teachers in Teaching ACT Test Prep
In December 2015, ACT drastically redesigned their writing prompts with a focus on analytical writing. This redesign – one intended to encourage students to write more academically and address complexities in their writing – included expanded prompts, more open-ended writing, and a new scoring guide.
For literacy specialists or coaches looking for tips to support teachers who want to prepare students for the ACT writing portion, here are some things to consider:
Complexity. The writing prompt passage is more complex than past prompts. The topics presented – which do not deal with high school or education as they did in the past – are broad and controversial. By carefully reading the prompt, students are instructed with a task to complete. For instance, students might be asked to evaluate or examine implications of a practice in society. Literacy coaches can help teachers break down the prompt to expose the task. In addition, each prompt includes a core question. This question will most likely not be explicitly stated, so literacy coaches can work with teachers to expose the question in sample writing prompts.
Perspectives. In addition to examining the prompt, students are provided three perspectives on the social issue presented in the prompt. Of the three perspectives, one will be positive, one neutral, and one negative. Literacy specialists can help teachers examine each of the three perspectives and re-state them in student-friendly language.
Action. ACT encourages students to write more analytically, and the essay task describes exactly what students should be able to do. According to the website ACT.org, students must “analyze and evaluate the perspectives given”, “state and develop your own perspective on the issue”, and “explain the relationship between your perspective and those given.” Literacy coaches can support teachers by providing model essays that students can evaluate according to ACT expectations. ACT consistently releases prompts and sample essays.
Teachers can use students’ test scores to improve their instruction. Literacy coaches can support teachers by understanding the new tasks students are being asked to complete for the newly redesigned ACT writing.
Literacy coaches can download my tip sheet and provide it to teachers to support them in their instruction of skills for the new ACT.