SAT and Persuasive Essay Writing Instruction:
The following is how I approach SAT essay writing lessons for those finding this part of the SAT difficult. It is essentially the same as how I teach basic high school and college essay writing. The difference is that the SAT essays now allow only 25 minutes of writing time, so they are not in the 5 paragraph essay format that students learned in secondary school. This makes matters confusing for students.
The big question is what to leave out, if you have only 25 minutes to write an essay. The College Board recommends that students attempt to fully develop one or two ideas well, rather than try to introduce more ideas with less detail. I would always suggest that, when possible, try for two really well developed ideas. The Official SAT Study Guide has some samples of papers that were scored and explanations of the scoring rationale. This is an excellent place to begin to see what the College Board is looking for in terms of quality essays.
If students are not feeling confident about writing SAT essays, this is a typical progression of tutorial lessons in my SAT essay portion preparation lessons. Any part not found to be a weakness is skipped, and we move on to areas of difficulty:
- Students will do a practice essay of the type that is found on the SAT as a baseline test.
- If the student is found to have weak essay writing skills, SAT writing practice will ensue. Step 1 is to examine what a good essay looks like. We will examine SAT graded essays together, and the student will determine what constitutes a good essay.
- The student will then write a simple paragraph about something that they feel strongly about.
- We will examine the paragraph together, and I will teach the student how to turn a their essay into a longer essay through the use of a graphic organizer (if the student does not already have this skill).
- Once the student has filled in their graphic organizer, they will draft the body of their essay.
- After we examine the body of their essay, then I will teach the student tips on writing a great introduction and conclusion.
- Once the student has a great introduction and conclusion, I will point out trends in grammar and punctuation mistakes and do mini lessons with sample exercises, so that the student gains comfort in editing their own paper. We will look at sample mistakes together in their paper, and then the student will begin to find their own errors. At this point, the student will be given the opportunity to do the rest of the editing. I will review the final draft.
- Once the student has written their first practice paper, we will use more sample prompts, and the student will use a graphic organizer, draft, revise, and edit some more essays. We will target any problem areas that the student is having until they feel entirely comfortable writing a timed SAT essay.
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