Students Know How to Argue: Easing into tasc argument Based Writing!

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Students Know How to Argue: Easing into TASC Argument Based Writing!

Steve Schmidt

Adult Basic Skills Professional Development

Appalachian State University



Passing TASC = No Fear!
The really big reason not to worry about students passing TASC is ______________ !
“[The] norming sample consisted of a national sample of high-school seniors and recent high-school graduates . . . the passing standard for each sub-test was determined by calculating the score on the sub-test resulting in a 70% pass rate based on the norming sample data . . . For example, the passing standard for the Mathematics section was determined by calculating the score that resulted in 70% of the norm sample passing TASC test Mathematics . . . This process for setting the cut scores is similar to how the cut scores for the GED test have been set in the past.”

- Description of TASC Test Assessing Secondary CompletionTM Standard Scoring Process

The bottom line: Students will pass TASC at similar rates to GED 2002!

TASC Language Arts- Writing is based on these College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education:
- Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and

relevant and sufficient evidence.

a. Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an

organization that establishes clear relationships among the claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

b. Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and

limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level and concerns.

c. Use words, phrases, and clauses to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the

relationships between claim(s) and reasons, between reasons and evidence, and between claim(s) and

d. Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of

the discipline in which they are writing.

e. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.
- Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to

task, purpose, and audience

- Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach,

focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.

- Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
TASC Writing Overview
The TASC Language Arts – Writing Test argument essay asks students to unpack a prompt, read source material that’s 600 to 800 words, plan their response, write it, and then edit/revise. Students are given 50 minutes to complete their response. TASC does not ask for a certain number of words or paragraphs. The writing portion of the test is 17% of the possible points.

Grading and Scoring the Reasoning through Language Arts Test

Grading: TASC writing is graded on a rubric that emphasizes how well students create an argument, back it with strong evidence, have an organizational structure, and use Standard English. See pages 25 - 26 for the scoring rubric.
Scoring: Students can score up to 4 points. Their total score is then doubled and added to the number of correct answers on the rest of the test to get their raw score. The raw score is the converted to a scale score

ranging from 300 to 800.

TASC Writing Instructional Shifts
Guided practice of close analytic reading
Since students are writing about reading, we need to model for students how to get meaning from

texts. One way to do this is to use the What, Why, How chart on page 11.

Writing about reading
Create writing prompts that focus on reading passages
Reading a range of texts
Have students read informational and literary texts. TASC reading is 70% informational and 30%


Using text evidence to support claims 
Ask, “How do you know?” Move students away from their opinions to using text based evidence to back up their arguments.
Writing for a variety of purposes, including argumentative writing

Argument Based Writing
Thesis Statement

In the first paragraph of an argument essay, students should set the context by reviewing the topic in a general way. Next the author should explain why the topic is important or why readers should care about the issue. Lastly, students should present the thesis statement. It is essential that this thesis statement be appropriately narrowed to follow the guidelines in the prompt.

Clear and Logical Transitions between the Introduction, Body, and Conclusion

Transitions are the mortar that holds the foundation of the essay together. Without logical progression of thought, the reader is unable to follow the essay’s argument, and the structure will collapse. Transitions should wrap up the idea from the previous section and introduce the idea that is to follow in the next section.

Body Paragraphs Should Include Evidential Support

Each paragraph should be limited to the discussion of one general idea. This will allow for clarity and direction throughout the essay. In addition, such conciseness creates an ease of readability for one’s audience. It is important to note that each paragraph in the body of the essay must have some logical connection to the thesis statement in the opening paragraph. Some paragraphs will directly support the thesis statement with evidence collected during research. It is also important to explain how and why the evidence supports the thesis.

Use PEA while writing body paragraphs:
P Point - Make your point

E Evidence – Support your point with evidence and examples

A Argue – Explain how the evidence supports your points


The argumentative essay requires well-researched, accurate, detailed, and current information to support the thesis statement. Some factual, logical, statistical, or anecdotal evidence should support the thesis. However, students must consider multiple points of view when collecting evidence. A successful and well-rounded argumentative essay will also discuss opinions not aligning with the thesis. It is not the student’s job to point out how other positions are wrong outright, but rather to explain how other positions may not be well informed or up to date on the topic.


A conclusion that does not simply restate the thesis, but readdresses it in light of the evidence provided.

This is the portion of the essay that will leave the most immediate impression on the mind of the reader. Therefore, it must be effective and logical. Do not introduce any new information into the conclusion; rather, synthesize the information presented in the body of the essay. Restate why the topic is important, review the main points, and review your thesis.

Adapted from Purdue Owl

Preparing for Argument Writing
Quick Writes
See pages 21 and 22

I Wanna Iguana
In this exercise, we use a children’s book to help students understand how to locate arguments and to realize they have been preparing for argument writing their whole life!

Strike or Stroll?
Use prediction and inference to help students develop arguments

Apples to Apples Game
Students can argue why their red apple noun card best matches the green apple adjective card

Oral Argument
I agree with _______________ because _______________
I disagree with ________________ because ______________

Have students play the authors of each paper in the prompt. Students can ask them questions about the evidence in their paper.

$5 or a Lottery Ticket
See page 23

Teaching Writing as a Process

Teach students to tackle writing assignments using a process. A process is a standard method for doing something. For example, use URPWE as a process for writing extended responses and short answers.

U = Unpack the prompt – What are you being asked to do?

R = Read the source material
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