Application of Writing Skills and Knowledge for Praxis II ParaPro Test Prep Study Guide (page 4)
The practice quiz for this study guide can be found at:
The last 12 questions on the writing section of the ParaPro Assessment will test your ability to apply writing skills and knowledge to the classroom. That may mean, for example, that you will be asked to show how you would aid students in their writing skills, such as choosing the proper word in a sentence. You may also be asked to show how you would help students organize, draft, and revise their essays in your role as a paraprofessional.
Other types of questions on the writing skills application section of the test may ask you to help students:
- Use reference materials
- Understand the purpose of a piece of writing
- Understand the importance of the audience of a piece of writing
- Use Reference Materials
You will likely see a question on your ParaPro Assessment that asks which reference material a student should use to locate specific information. Depending on what the student is looking for, the following reference materials could be used:
- An atlas is a book of maps. Students should use an atlas only when trying to find information about geography, such as the capital of California or the countries that share a border with Germany.
- A dictionary contains definitions of words. A student would only use a dictionary as a resource if he or she didn't know the meaning of a word.
- An encyclopedia contains a wealth of specific information about a subject, both general and specific. For example, an encyclopedia will tell you about Canada, or about where and when a specific person was born.
- A newspaper provides up-to-date information about a topic, including current events or issues. Old newspaper articles can also serve as a historical record of an event or issue.
- A magazine can also provide up-to-date information about a topic, but magazines tend to go into more detail than newspapers. Look at the name of the magazine or the title of the article to determine whether it suits the student's purpose.
- A textbook or a book on a specific topic can provide very in-depth information about a topic. For example, a student doing a report on England during the 1800s can turn to a textbook called Ninteenth Century Europe.
- A website can provide just about any information that can be found in any other resource. For example, some websites will contain general information or details about current events. Whether a website is helpful for the student's purpose depends on the type of website—and whether it is reputable. Students will have to determine whether the Internet site will provide a useful resource.
A piece of writing may serve many possible purposes. It is critical that students understand what a piece of writing is trying to achieve. As a result, students—and paraprofessionals—must be familiar with the following three major types of writing.
Some writing is intended to persuade the reader of something. This type of writing contains an argument and takes a position. For example, a student may write an essay about how the school year should end in April. He or she will attempt to make arguments and persuade the reader to agree with the main idea. A common place to find examples of persuasive writing is in the Opinion-Editorial section of a newspaper. Advertisements also contain persuasive writing; they are trying to convince the reader to buy the product!
Any piece of writing that contains instructions is an example of instructive writing. Its purpose is simply to tell the reader how to do something. A set of directions or a product manual is an example of instructive writing.
Descriptive writing, as its name implies, is full of descriptions. These descriptions can tell a story and have a great amount of detail. A poem may be an example of descriptive writing. Unlike instructive or persuasive writing, descriptive writing has no motive other than to tell a story. It does not attempt to convince the reader of something or tell the reader how to do a task.
Effective writing pays close attention to its audience. Good writers consider their readers: Who are they? What do they know about the subject? What preconceived notions do they have? What will hold their attention?
A student should consider the audience to help make key writing decisions about the level of formality and detail. The level of formality determines whether the student will use slang, an informal tone, technical jargon, or formal language in his or her writing. If a student is writing for a general audience and not for friends or family, for example, the readers may not be familiar with the student's background or experiences. Therefore, in those cases, students should be sure to provide their readers with adequate context.
Aspects of the Writing Process
As classroom educators, paraprofessionals are responsible for helping students develop into strong writers. That involves explaining the steps necessary to build a well-structured essay. The following steps show how a student can create an essay involving a thesis, or a main idea with an argument.
Step 1: Prewriting
The prewriting—or planning—process is essential to developing a clear, organized essay. Prewriting consists of some quick, basic steps: formulating a thesis, brainstorming for examples that will support a student's thesis, and drafting an outline or basic structure for the essay.
A thesis statement should:
- tell the reader what the subject is
- inform the reader what the writer thinks and feels about the subject
- use clear, active language
Students don't have to waste their time making their thesis statement a masterpiece. They will be able to grab the reader's attention by clearly stating the purpose in simple words. For example, a student wants to write an essay about wearing school uniforms.
The following sentences are not thesis statements:
- Many private schools already require school uniforms.
- Some students prefer school uniforms, while others detest them.
- Why do schools use uniforms?
The following are thesis statements:
- School uniforms discourage high-school students from learning responsibility and developing individuality.
- School uniforms are effective in creating a positive learning environment.
Step 2: Brainstorm for Ideas
Once a student has decided what he or she wants to write about—or what his or her thesis will be—he or she will begin to brainstorm (think of ideas) for support. Students should try to generate three to five reasons that back up their main idea in a persuasive piece of writing.
Brainstorming is a prewriting process in which you imagine or write down any ideas that come to mind. To brainstorm effectively, students should not judge their ideas initially; they should simply put them down on paper. If they are stuck for ideas, they can try these brainstorming strategies:
- Try the freewriting technique, in which you write nonstop for two minutes. Keep your pen to paper and keep your hand moving. Doubtlessly, your ideas will emerge.
- List as many ideas as you can. Don't edit for grammar or structure; just write down whatever comes to mind.
Step 3: Outline the Essay
To make sure that a student's essay is well developed and organized, the student must draft an outline. An outline will help students put their ideas into a logical order and identify any gaps in their supporting details. On your ParaPro Assessment, you may see an example of an outline for a student's essay. You may be asked how to help improve the organization of the outline, or fill in the gaps in a student's outline with additional information.
Some essays should follow a specific structure. For example, persuasive essays follow a basic three-part structure:
- Introduction: Present your position to your readers. State your thesis.
- Body: Provide specific support for your thesis.
- Conclusion: Bring closure to your essay and restate your thesis.
Where the introduction and conclusion go is probably obvious. However, a student needs a pattern, or structure, to organize the ideas in the body of the essay. The four most common patterns are chronological order, comparison and contrast, cause and effect, and order of importance. The following chart lists each organizing principle's key characteristics and effective uses in writing.
Step 4: Writing the Essay
First Impression—The Introduction
Once a detailed outline is completed, a student can begin to draft his or her essay. A student must use clear, direct language to introduce the reader to the thesis and focus. A useful technique for creating a strong introduction is to begin with a thesis and then give a summary of the evidence (supporting details) that will be presented in the body of the essay.
Supporting Paragraphs—The Body of the Essay
Working from the detailed outline, a student can begin composing the body of his or her essay.
Each paragraph should be treated like a mini-essay, with its own thesis (a topic sentence that expresses the main idea of the paragraph) and supporting details (examples). Follow these guidelines for creating supporting paragraphs:
- Avoid introducing several ideas within one paragraph. By definition, a paragraph is a group of sentences about the same idea.
- Use at least one detail or example to back up each main supporting idea.
- Aim for about three or four sentences in each paragraph. If a student writes more sentences for each paragraph, a reader might lose track of the main idea of the paragraph. If a student writes fewer sentences, he or she may not be developing the idea adequately.
- Use transitions. Key words and phrases can help guide readers through an essay. Students can use these common transitions to indicate the order of importance of your material: first and foremost, most important, first, second, third, moreover, finally, and above all. Remind students not to use "firstly," "secondly," or "thirdly"—these forms are incorrect and awkward.
The last paragraph of a student's essay should sum up the argument. They should avoid introducing new ideas or topics. Instead, the concluding paragraph should restate the thesis, but in new words. The conclusion should demonstrate that the topic was covered fully and should convince readers that they have learned something meaningful from the argument.
Step 5: Revising and Proofreading the Essay
The goal of proofreading is to give a student's essay a final polish, by checking spelling, correcting grammatical errors, and if needed, changing word order or word choice. The following checklist outlines some basic grammatical problems a student should look out for as he or she proofreads. (All of these grammar trouble spots are discussed earlier in the chapter.)
- Make sure nouns and verbs agree. The subject of the sentence must match the verb in number. If the subject is singular, the verb is singular. If the subject is plural, the verb is plural.
- Make sure pronouns and antecedents agree. Pronouns and the nouns they represent (antecedents) must agree in number. If the antecedent is singular, the pronoun is singular; if the antecedent is plural, the pronoun is plural.
- Check the modifiers. Look out for modifiers that are easy to confuse, like good/well, bad/badly, fewer/less. Remember: Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns; adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs.
- Keep the verb tense consistent. Switching tense within a sentence can change its meaning. Generally, a sentence or paragraph that begins in the present tense should continue in the present tense.
- Check the sentence structure. Keep an eye out for sentence fragments, run-on sentences, comma splices, or any other issues that prevent the sentence from being understood.
The practice quiz for this study guide can be found at:
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