Writing for the PSSA
Jo Beth McKee
Pennsylvania Department of Education
English Language Education Advisor
Edward G. Rendell, Dr. Gerald L. Zahorchak,
Governor Secretary of Education
PA Writing Scoring Guides
Grammar and usage
2 scoring guides in each of the 3 modes of
writing (informational, persuasive, narrative)
Composition Score (Focus, content, organization
Multiple Choice Example Activity
Count off by 3
1’s: Read the paragraph and answer the
2’s: Read the paragraph and edit it for errors
as you read
3’s: Read the questions first and then read
Multiple Choice Writing Example
In groups of 3 or 4 discuss the following
What strategy did you use? What worked?
What didn’t work?
How could this be differentiated within a
How can this type of exercise be incorporated
into content instruction?
Use the Questions!
Use the multiple choice questions and
answers to gauge what might be in the
Review M/C questions
5th Grade Example
1 Last summer, my family went on a weekend trip to
Lake Erie. 2 We packed our bags in the evening and left
early the next morning. 3 When I asked my dad which
direction we were going, he told me to look at the map.
4 I find my hometown of Pittsburgh and make a line
with my finger to the lake. 5 We were driving North. 6 It
took us a little over two, hours to get there. 7 That
afternoon, my mom and I went on a bird-watching hike.
8 Then I went fishing with my grandparents, and I made
sandcastles with my sister on the beach.
6. Which sentence has an error in capitalization?
A sentence 1
B sentence 3
C sentence 5
D sentence 8
Turn the question around and ask why the other 3
should be capitalized.
8th Grade Example
5 He also writes weekly Editorials for The Miami Herald. 6
Even though his books are about serious subjects, they are
written humorously and are filled with adventures and bizarre
characters. 7 Hiaasen’s writing is well-liked by people of all
ages. 8 His books have been translated into thirty languages,
and he has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize three times.
Which word should not be capitalized?
A Editorials in sentence 5
Herald in sentence 5
Pulitzer in sentence 8
Prize in sentence 8
Turn the question around and ask why the other 3 should be
How is Writing Assessed?
Writing Domains = Composition Score
The single controlling point made with an awareness of task
(mode) about a specific topic.
Ideas developed through facts, examples, anecdotes, details,
The order developed and sustained within and across
The choice, use and arrangement of words and sentences that
create tone and voice.
Conventions (assessed separately from FCOS)
The Writing Process
Brainstorm, graphic organizers, etc
Words on paper
For content: add, delete, organize thoughts
Others see the work
Scoring Composition …
Focus Use the Domain
Content Scoring Guide as a
Organization basis for a common
writing process into
Conventions current writing
Score the provided released items using
the assessment domain scoring guide.
Put your FCOS score and Convention score on
the back and give paper to a partner to score.
Score student work using the assessment
domain scoring guide.
Link to PSSA Released Items
Standards Aligned System
One Stop Shop for Educators
Materials and Resources
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
Diane Castelbuono, Deputy Secretary
Bureau of Teaching and Learning Support
Dr. Edward Vollbrecht, Director
Division of Standards and Curriculum
Teresa Shakespeare, Acting Division Chief
The mission of the Pennsylvania Department of Education is to lead
and serve the educational community, to enable each individual to grow
into an inspired, productive, fulfilled lifelong learner.