Tackling Timed Writing Situations
Writing clearly in an organized manner using standard acceptable writing conventions is a vital skill for teachers. Nothing sets the hackles up on the backs of parents more than a note sent home from a teacher that includes spelling or grammar errors. Because teachers serve as models for their students, it is imperative that their writing and speaking be impeccable. We require several different admission criteria in communication for that very reason.
It is important for you to know that the timed writing sample that will be taken at the admissions meeting will be scored at a college sophomore level while the PPST writing subtest is scored at an 11th grade level. Knowing this helps some people to realize how they can "pass" the PPST writing exam but not the teacher education writing exam. If you feel you need to prepare for the writing exam, read on.
The writing sample you will be asked to provide at the admissions meeting creates anxiety in some students. It is an example of high stakes testing -- you cannot be admitted to teacher education until you pass the writing exam. Good writers realize that in these situations, the normal writing process (invent, plan, draft, revise, edit) cannot be abandoned, but must be condensed. In response to student questions about how to prepare for the writing exam, the Education Department has prepared this document, which lists some particular strategies for tackling timed writing situations. A list of scoring criteria is included at the end to help understand how your sample will be evaluated.
Assessing the Prompt
Look first at the words that give you directions: are you asked to "recount" and experience, to "summarize and analyze" a subject, to "examine" or "evaluate" a concept, or to "explain" the significance of something?
Note carefully what you're being asked to do, then set about the task of developing a strategy for your response.
Planning and Organizing your Response
For writing prompts that have several parts, make a list of the parts and include each in your outline. For prompts posed as questions, rephrase each question as a topic sentence. You may want to try two or three outlines before you hit on a workable plan. But be realistic. You want a plan you can develop within the time allotted (60 minutes). Therefore, your outline should be selective: not everything you know about the subject, but what you know that you can clearly develop within the time allotted.
For instance, assume you were asked to write an essay in an hour. Take a look at the prompts given below; take 15 minutes each to develop an outline from which you could write a good essay in the 45 minutes that would remain.
Prompt 1: Summarize a movie and analyze it for its effectiveness
or for reasons you liked or disliked it.
Remember that you want to write an essay from the outline in about 45 minutes, so take care not to include too many levels.
Writing your Essay
Some Typical Writing Prompts: