Writing the TAKS Essay

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					 Writing the
 TAKS Essay
Exit-Level ELA TAKS
  March 3rd, 2010
What is the TAKS essay?
• It is the writing portion of the ELA
  TAKS test
• It follows the Reading portion, after
  the three OERs
• The prompt is thematically connected
  to the literature and visual in the
  Reading portion
What do I have to write?
• The most popular way to approach the
  TAKS essay is by writing a personal
  narrative essay a form of writing in
  which the writer relates an event,
  incident, or experience in his or her own
• The personal narrative incorporates vivid
  descriptive details as well as the
  thoughts, feelings, and reactions of the
       How do I write it?
• Use first person POV      • Focus and narrow the
• Write from what you         story to the real story –
  know!                       hover over the action
• Be specific…NAME the      • Use authentic voice –
  characters, places, and     eliminate street
  things…eliminate vague      language (“cuz”, “dat”,
  generalities (i.e.-         “thru”, “2”, “til” etc.)
  everyone, anybody,        • Create smooth
  someone, we, you)           transitions…avoid “First,
• Use vivid active verbs      we…”, “Second, we…”
      SHOW don’t TELL
• Some sentences just        • Let your words create
  simply tell the reader       a picture in the
  information                  reader’s mind
EXAMPLE –                    EXAMPLE –
  The man was really old     A frail, stooped man with
  and walked slowly.           paper-thin skin
                               shuffled along slowly
                               in front of me.

        Give the reader the opportunity to imagine
        it for themselves and engage in your writing.
How do I structure
my essay?
• Begin with an introduction that includes
  purpose and motivation for the action as
  well as the characters, setting and time
• Build the body of the text around the
  ideas you presented in the introduction
• Finish the essay with an insightful and
  meaningful conclusion; reflect on what you
  learned from the experience
Of course, don’t forget…
• to use correct punctuation and
• to develop sentences
• No 1-pagers
• evoke a reader response for the
  highest score…not just tears…
How is the essay scored?
• On a scale of 0 – 4 (“4” being the
  highest score)
• You must score a “2” or higher in
  order to pass the entire ELA TAKS
   What qualifies as a “1”?
Focus and Coherence
•   Hard to understand
•   Incomplete or extra information that is off subject
•   You aren’t clear about what you’re saying about the prompt
•   Few/no transitions
•   Ideas are hard to follow
Depth of Development
•   You give 1+ ideas but don’t develop
•   You just list ideas, and the reader can’t understand them
•   You leave out information, creating gaps that make it hard to understand
•   You don’t seem to care about your ideas, so the reader can’t either
•   No personality
•   Your writing does not show the reader you can correctly spell or capitalize, and you have
    many errors in grammar, usage, and sentence structure that make it really hard to read
   What qualifies as a “2”?
Focus and Coherence
• Has some focus but may shift quickly from idea to idea
• Some sense of completeness, but has extra information that doesn’t make
   your writing clearer or more interesting
• Need better transitions
• Weak organization and/or too many repeated ideas
Depth of Development
• You make lists of ideas and don’t explain them much
• You write one or more ideas and try to develop them, but you don’t write
   from the heart about them
• In some places you make the reader feel like they know you, but you don’t
   keep it up
• Some parts are real/original, but the reader has no sense of your
• Many spelling, capitalization, punctuation, grammar, usage, and sentence
   structure errors that make it harder for me to follow your ideas
  What qualifies as a “3”?
Focus and Coherence
• Most parts are focused
• Clear links between ideas
• Most of your writing is good quality
• The introduction and conclusion add focus
• Sentences and paragraphs are smoothly linked to each other
• Mostly good organization
Depth of Development
• Good, clear ideas; most are elaborated
• Try to develop all ideas, but some are more developed than others
• You seem to be afraid to take risks and write from the heart
• The reader feels connected to you through most of your writing
• Sounds mostly real and original
• You let your personality come through
• Mostly good spelling, capitalization, punctuation, usage, grammar, and sentence
   structure. Your few, small mistakes don’t get in the way of your writing
      What qualifies as a “4”?
Focus and Coherence
• Focused! Ideas fit together to form a while
• Good intro. and conclusion
• Good overall quality
• Most writing, if not all, leads to the end
• Sentences and paragraphs are smoothly linked to each other
• Your PLAN makes your ideas clear
Depth of Development
• Ideas are clear with lots of elaboration
• Your ideas are shared in a thoughtful/wise manner
• You aren’t afraid to take risks, to write from your heart, to weave in your experiences
• Your writing sounds real and original
• The reader feels like they know you when they read your writing
• No problems with mechanics at all
• You take some chances by writing at high levels, but any errors in doing this doesn’t take
    away from your paper
      Before you begin…
• Read the prompt a couple of
• Have a plan…Brainstorm
  about ideas that you could
  use to address the prompt
• Create an outline or write a
  draft before you put your
  pencil to the essay paper
    When you’re done…
• Make any corrections
• If you aren’t sure about spelling of a
  word, use the dictionary!!!

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