Friday, August 1, 2014

Demand Writing...How come?

Teaching writing is hard.  REALLY hard.

There are so many components to teaching it--from dealing with students who have fine motor issues to difficulties coming up with ideas to challenges getting ideas on paper to spelling to organization to...I'll stop.  You teach.  You get it.

By far one of the biggest “difference makers” for me as a “teacher of writers” has been my use of demand prompts to guide instruction.  In my class, we have a balance of free writing, process writing, and demand writing—but for me, the most effective way to ASSESS students is to do a regular demand prompt to see how students are doing on the targets we have worked on all year.  Process writing is critical in the classroom, but as students work together, confer, share, revise, and so on—it becomes difficult to know what they can do independently.  I really feel it is the most efficient, effective, and stress-free way to measure student growth and to see what areas I need to provide additional instruction—to individual students, small focus groups, or the entire class.  

My method is simple:  Each prompt is graded using the exact same checklist at the top.  I try to keep my checklist the same no matter which genre I use (descriptive, opinion, narrative) which allows me to measure student growth ALL year.  I try to give one demand prompt per month or, at least, 2 per quarter to help me make sound instructional decisions and to watch for student growth.  I keep all demand prompts in files for the students and share progress at parent teacher conferences.  Parents and students are WOWED by how much growth is made from beginning to end!  I also make copies of some (no names!) to use as mentor texts in following years. 

How do I do it?

*Students are given a sheet of paper to use for planning if they wish.  Planning is not graded.

*Students are given 35 minutes of writing time to complete the task.  At 30 minutes I give them a 5 minute warning to wrap up their writing or to go back and “make it their best”.  Use your judgment about time based on the attention and stamina of your students.

*I collect their work and evaluate it based on the checklist.  Do NOT spend huge amounts of time fretting about whether to give certain scores.  The purpose is to collect information about what students still need more experiences with!  Give students a “3” if you feel their skills meet your grade level expectations.  I can score a class set in 60-90 minutes. 

*Our team of teachers will often bring a few samples of these to team times to compare notes and see if teachers are on the same page for assessing grade level standards.  This is great staff development!

*My checklists are tied not to a specific set of standards--but to what teachers have told me are the CRITICAL writing skills they want to be looking for.

I have been making different sets of prompts for intermediate students (I have sets by genre, by season, and so on) but I have had many primary teachers ask me to make an adaptation for younger students—and here they are!  

Here's the demand bundle for intermediate grades

CLICK HERE to see my entire list of demand prompts for all grades!


  1. Great post! I agree teaching writing is not only hard, but demands so much out of class time. Looks like a great product!

  2. What a super post. In all the subjects I teach, I feel like writing is where I struggle most. I am loving your ideas - from how often you grade to the idea of demand prompts. Our WV Writing Assessment is a demand prompt and we need to get them prepared for that. This will be a nice way to do that. I will be picking these up.