Tried it Tuesday - Common Core Writing

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As a middle school teacher in Florida, for years we have been entrenched in FCAT Writes.  (FCAT is our Florida Standardized testing).  With the Common Core upon us (although Florida hasn't officially decided if we will go to Common Core or not), I have had to make some shifts.

For FCAT, the pattern for writing a body paragraph is this:
-topic sentence with reason from thesis.
-definition of reason
-example of reason
-anecdote about reason
-closing sentence with connection to thesis.

Now enter Common Core!  This is what we have been told the pattern must be:
-topic sentence with reason for thesis
-supporting detail #1 about reason 
-evidence that backs up supporting detail #1
-supporting detail #2
-evidence that backs up supporting detail #2
-closing (optional)

Now it is important for me to tell you that I have grades 6-8 in the same room at the same time as I teach Special Education because my 8th graders will still take FCAT in February while the others seem likely to take the PARCC next year.  So my challenge was how to make writing essays work for everybody.  Time for some BRAINSTORMING!

What I came up with is using both sets of terms to combine ideas. 

Since my students LOVE Spongebob, we read and watched an episode of Spongebob.  Then the prompt was:   Which is your favorite character?   We made a plan for our three reasons and then filled in a kind of FLEE map with this structure:

-topic sentence with reason from thesis.  
Spongebob is my favorite character because he is kind.

-definition=supporting detail.  [What Spongebob says or does that  seems kind.]
He is very kind to his friend Patrick.

-example & anecdote = evidence (proof that he is kind)
I remember a time when Patrick almost completely beat up Spongebob because he was in a Krabby Patty costume that Patrick thought had eaten Spongebob.  Spongebob didn't get mad at Patrick even though it hurt to be pounded out of that costume.

-definition=supporting detail.  [What Spongebob says or does that  seems kind.]
Spongebob is also kind to Squidward.

-example & anecdote = evidence (proof that he is kind)
Squidward is always yelling at Spongebob because he thinks Spongebob is annoying.  Spongebob never yells back at Squidward and even tells Squidward that he's glad they're friends.  

That's why Spongebob's kindness makes him the best character.

Of course we went back and added different adjectives, synonyms, vivid verbs and so on but at least the scaffolding seemed to help us get ideas down on paper.  

This was tough for my students from the get-go but since they love Spongebob, this made it a bit easier.  They all wrote their final copies on the last day before Thanksgiving break and at a first glance, they look pretty good!  I just hope we can make this shift without too much confusion so my 8th graders still can do their very best on the last FCAT writes.  

I am giving away my 12 week unit for Expository Essays this week. Feel free to check out the Lesson Plan oragnizer for the entire unit and the first week's worth of lessons HERE and then enter the giveaway if you like what you see.  Or you can also purchase it at the Cyber sale!  :)

Thanks & Enjoy!


  1. I am so glad I'm teaching 5th grade this year instead of 4th grade with FCAT Writes just around the corner. 5th grade isn't much better worrying about the Science test, but still...
    I think the whole confusion of "Are we doing CCSS? Will we have PARCC? Should I use a 6 point rubric or a 4 point rubric?" has been extremely overwhelming to all of the teachers. I really like how you used something in your class to help the students relate to something that they know to make it a little easier on them.
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

    1. I really appreciate your comment because I am glad to know I am not alone! I am still not completely sure how this will all work out so I am just trying to the best I can with what I have. :)

  2. I love how you used Spongebob for your topic to help students set up the format. There is no sense in having students write about a "difficult topic" when you are just trying to teach them the format. Thank you so much for sharing. It will be interesting to see what happens with PARCC!
    Fourth Grade Flipper


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