A Little Humor Before the Big Test

Hey y’all, My prayers are with you tomorrow as you administer the 2017 Writing STAAR test.  I just wanted to show you a picture of a former student’s masterpiece.  Praying that your students fill up the page with quality and not just quantity.

Blessings,  Alice


My High Score and Low Score of 2015

As we wait for this year’s scores to come in, I thought you might like to see a few samples from my 2015 class.

As we wait for this year's scores to come in, I thought you might like to see a few samples from my 2015 class.

This zero paper may look like it was written by a boy who can’t speak English, but even though he is Hispanic, the family speaks English in the home.  He just can’t read.  You will notice a few words that he has learned to copy.  You can even see him try to write transition words and a few voice words like COOL!  But everything else is undecipherable. It is not even spelled phonetically.

As we wait for this year's scores to come in, I thought you might like to see a few samples from my 2015 class. Score=0

None of my students received an 8 in 2015, the highest received was a 7.  You can see that this student followed the COBWEBS writing checklist and writing process, and did a great job.

As we wait for this year's scores to come in, I thought you might like to see a few samples from my 2015 class. Score= 7

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STAAR Study Guide

Some parents want the opportunity to study with their child before the STAAR test and this guide is just the ticket. I have created this study guide designed to be printed front/back.   I have included a place for the parent to sign for weekend study sessions and for Monday.  You might want to give some kind of incentive for getting it signed.   Hope you can put this to good use.  Click below for the PDF files.


STAR guide 2


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Don’t Forget to Teach These 2 Revising Absolutes

revising absolutes

You can take it to the bank that at least one of these two questions will be found on the revising section of the STAAR test:  central idea, or conclusion.  On every released test, BOTH of these were asked, but of course that was before the test was shortened to one day.  Let me remind you that the test consists of only 6 revising questions and 12 editing questions. I want to show you how I teach both of these skills to my At Risk students.

First and most important is vocabulary recognition.  I have researched the way these two questions have been asked on the following tests and the vocabulary used. Make sure they are familiar with all of these terms.

2015 Released Test:  central idea, close

2014 Released Test:  central idea, closing

2013 Released Test:  topic sentence, close, closing sentence

2011 Released Sample Questions:  central idea, conclusion

Next, I teach my students to circle the title and write central idea and topic.  Another often forgotten paragraph is the one over the title written in italics.  Information on the topic is often in this paragraph.  I also teach my students to circle this paragraph and  the central idea there too.



The key words in this particular example are:  neighborhood project, friendship garden.  They should find some form of most of these in the central idea question and the conclusion question.  At least they will be able to use these words to eliminate.


Looking a question 13, we notice that it asks Angela to add a sentence after sentence 3.  This means that the other sentences in the paragraph should also be helping the reader see the central idea.  I had my students circle all the key words that we found in the title and italic paragraph in the first three sentences.  One word that was missing was garden.  Using elimination we concluded the best choice would be B. (see below)  Notice that C did not have any of our key words, and D and A used the word neighbor that was already used in the paragraph.  This method is not foolproof, but it gives these At Risk kids a fighting chance.


We can use the same strategy for the conclusion question. We are looking for our key central idea words.  J would be the correct choice because “grown some amazing food”  is the same thing as garden and it also includes our key word “friend.”


I am sure I don’t have to remind you to have your student eliminate any answer that uses “the end.”   Hope this strategy works for you.


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Expository Checklist- Cobwebs Fed Pretty Queen

Acronyms work great to help your students memorize important information, and there is nothing more important than being able to remember the types of sentences that enhance a STAAR composition.

COBWEBSMy suggestion is to train your students to write this checklist on the prompt page as soon they begin the STAAR test.  As they write, they should refer to this list and check off each item as used.  See my post about The Expository Prompt to see how this is used.  And see my post about Expository Pre-Writing to see it in action.  Below is the final draft from an actual student in my class who made an 8 using this method.  I have highlighted each time she used the COBWEBSFEDPQ5.


I have created a PDF file of the COBWEBS checklist for you. Blessings to you from me!

Click here for COBWEBS PDF

Cobwebs 1








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Take Time for a Laugh

I just had to post this picture I found on the Internet this week.  You need a laugh since I know you are stressing about the upcoming STAAR test.  You have to just shake your head and roll your eyes at this bit of irony.  Don’t you just LOVE irony?

Ironic Spelling test just for my STAAR writing teacher friends. Here is a laugh on me. This blog is not paid to endorse any ads or products.


New Information From TEA for 2016

2016 STAAR Info

Senate Bill 149, House Bill 743, and House Bill 2349, which were passed during the 84th legislative session, necessitate changes to the STAAR program.

House Bill 743 requires that STAAR assessments be designed so that 85% of students can complete the grades 3–5 assessments in two hours and 85% of students can complete the grades 6–8 assessments in three hours. During the 2015–2016 school year, TEA will redesign the STAAR grades 4 and 7 writing tests so they will be completed in one four-hour administration.  These redesigned writing assessments will be administered beginning in spring 2016.  In addition, TEA will gather data during the spring 2016 administrations to determine how to adjust the remaining grades 3–8 assessments to meet the testing time requirements of HB 743. The remaining redesigned grades 3-8 assessments will be administered beginning in spring 2017. Click here for the TEA page.

This is good news for fourth graders.  The fourth grade composition will no longer test over personal narrative.  So all effort and practice should be directed toward expository.  In addition to this good news, the Writing Blueprint tells us that only 6 multiple choice questions will be over revision, and 12 over editing. Only 18 multiple choice.  Here are PDF files for you to copy, straight from the TEA website.



Writing Performance Level Descriptors updated 10/05/15

2015 Expository Scoring Guide

Released 2015 Writing STAAR test

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