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Writing Essays for Class (and STAAR/ ECR)

"The expository essay is a genre of essay that requires the student to investigate an idea, evaluate evidence, expound on the idea, and set forth an argument concerning that idea in a clear and concise manner. This can be accomplished through comparison and contrast, definition, example, the analysis of cause and effect, etc."

                                                                                                     - Online Writing Laboratory,

                                                                                                         Purdue University

The 6th-8th [grade] ECR items will be either information, argumentative, or correspondence. The genres of the ECRs will not be released before testing. The student’s responses will be based on a passage they have read. Information from the passage will be needed to answer other items as well. The student will be expected to cite evidence from the passage in their ECR. Their response can be up to 2300 characters long, not including spaces. ECRs will be scored by two human scorers*, each using a 5-point rubric.

*We've been told the ECRs would be graded by computers.

Anchor 1

Before we begin, here are some "never do's":

Do not use first person;

Do not refer to the reader;

Do not refer to the paper itself.

Avoid writing things like this: In my paper, I'm going to give you three reasons why...; There is a lot of evidence to support my claim; The evidence above...; My reasons prove...


Make sure you have at least three sections: Here's a nice graphic.


I. Introduction (HoTT)

     A. Hook (lead, connect)

     B. Transition (bridge, summary)

     C. Thesis (claim)

            SOaR: Subject, Opinion, Reason

II. Body Paragraph One (TEEC)

     A. Topic Sentence (Reason #1)

     B. Example (HELPS)

     C. Explanation / Elaboration

     D. Concluding Sentence

III. Body Paragraph Two (TEEC)

     A. Topic Sentence (Reason #2)

     B. Example (HELPS)

     C. Explanation / Elaboration

     D. Concluding Sentence

IV. Conclusion (XYZ)

     A. Explain/ restate the thesis

     B. Why should audience care?

     C. Zing audience with concluding


hourglass writing outline image.png


The introduction has three parts:

1. Hook, Lead, or Connect

2. Transition, Bridge, or Summary

3. Thesis/ Claim (SOaR - Subject, Opinion, and Reason)

The lead is a broad introduction that starts the reader thinking about the topic. It can "hook" your reader's interest or "lead" them into your topic. Use the lead to connect the ideas of your essay to something the reading may already be familiar with: text-to-text; text-to-self; text-to-world.


The transition connects the lead to the thesis by introducing the text the essay is based on. It bridges the two parts of the introduction and can be a simple summary of the passage.

The thesis contains the subject of the essay, the opinion that is being discussed, and the supporting reasons. We like the acronym SOaR: Subject, Opinion, and Reason. It is the answer to the prompt.

The origins of many traditions followed today are often not known or practiced anymore. Some people celebrate Christmas without any regard to Jesus, and most girls celebrating their Quincenera have no intention of getting married right away. Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery," tells about a small village that follows a disturbing tradition every June. However, the behavior of the characters reinforces the theme that traditions are often followed long after it's forgotten why they were established because they've forgotten many parts of the lottery and seem much less enthusiastic than they should.


II. (and III.) - The Body Paragraphs

Your body paragraphs are very similar to a short answer response: TEEC

The topic sentence is one of the reasons from your thesis, the evidence and explanations are from the text, and the concluding sentence closes out the paragraph.

The body of your paragraph is where you use evidence to prove your answer. Use my page on paraphrasing and quoting for guidance.


IV. The Conclusion

Don't ignore the conclusion.

It IS the last thing your reader will read so it needs to really put an end to the paper, but you must avoid going overboard.

Focus on three things:

     First, what's your last sentence going to do?

     Second, how does it relate to your thesis?

     Third, how many students end their papers with a "call to action"?

Look at page 10 of this booklet  I made for information or check out this little slideshow someone else made.

STAAR Prompt

The Scoring Rubric is actually rather generous.

The new STAAR essay is worth 17% of the total score, and that's a lot. Fortunately, if you have good writing and typing skills, you can get an 8 or 10. (It scored from 0 - 5, and then it's doubled.)

There are two sections: Development of Ideas (0-3) and Conventions/ Grammar and Punctuation (0-2). However, if you get a 0 for Development of Ideas, you get a 0 for the whole thing.

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