Pre-Writing: Understanding the Prompt



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Pre-Writing: Understanding the Prompt


You would think a writing prompt would be pretty easy to understand:

Your cousin is moving to your town. Write a letter explaining why your town is such a wonderful place to live.

That’s pretty straight forward. Brainstorm some of the great things about your town, organize them, pick out the best, and off you go.
But here’s what an expository STAAR prompt looks like:

READ the following quotation.
True humor is fun—it does not put down, kid, or mock. It makes people feel wonderful, not separate, different, and cut off.

—Hugh Prather


THINK carefully about the following question.
Does humor make life better?
WRITE an essay explaining whether it is important to laugh.

This is from the 2014 7th Grade STAAR test, and it’s particularly tricky.


Even though it clearly says, “Write an essay explaining whether [or not] it is important to laugh,” some students answered the question (Does humor make life better?) that they were simply to think about.
Why would the test makers give this extra information?
Believe it or not, the format of the writing prompt is designed to help you.

Look at the prompt (and the other STAAR formatted prompts that follow). They’ve given you a quotation to use (and they love quotations) that even gives you some ideas about laughter to think about. Do we laugh at people more than we laugh with people? Think about America’s Funniest Videos – How many involve people tripping, falling, and being hit with things? What about stand up comedians? Are they telling jokes that are actually funny, or are they just insulting?


They want that quotation to make you think as you ponder whether [or not] it’s important to laugh.
And then there’s that question. Most often, it’s a statement which is why I feel this was particularly, and unnecessarily, tricky. But think again about what they are doing – They’re trying to help you. They given you a quotation to use and an idea to include and then they give a question you could use as your opening sentence but not your thesis. (Remember: Your thesis is what you’re writing about. Whether or not it’s important to laugh.) But by answer the question – Does humor make life better? – then you have the answer to the prompt. If humor does make life better, then yes, it is important to laugh.
1.
READ the information in the box below.
In the movie The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy

says, “There’s no place like home.”


THINK about a place that is special to you.
WRITE about your favorite place to spend time. Describe the place and explain what makes it special.

2.


READ the following quotation.
True humor is fun—it does not put down, kid, or mock. It makes people feel wonderful, not separate, different, and cut off.

—Hugh Prather


THINK carefully about the following question.
Does humor make life better?
WRITE an essay explaining whether it is important to laugh.

3.

READ the information in the box below.


Most people have a favorite season

or time of year.


THINK about the time of year you like the most.
WRITE about your favorite time of year. Explain what makes it special to you.

Be sure to —

• clearly state your controlling idea

• organize and develop your explanation effectively

• choose your words carefully

• use correct spelling, capitalization, punctuation, grammar, and sentences

4.

READ the following quotation.
If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.

—Michael Jordan


THINK about the following statement.
No one can achieve success without overcoming obstacles.
WRITE an essay explaining the importance of never giving up.

5.

READ the information in the box below.


There are people in our lives who are

special to us. Sometimes this person is a

teacher or coach, a parent, a brother or

sister, or even a friend.


THINK about the people you care about.
WRITE about one person who has been important to you. Explain what makes that person special.

6.


READ the following quotation.
A famous businessman once said, “Players win games; teams win championships.”
THINK carefully about the following statement.
Sometimes you can accomplish good things by yourself but better things with other people.
WRITE an essay explaining whether it is better to work by yourself or with a group.

Be sure to —

• clearly state your controlling idea

• organize and develop your explanation effectively



• choose your words carefully

• use correct spelling, capitalization, punctuation, grammar, and sentences

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