Step 2 - Organize the Essay
Organizing an essay can be done in many forms. Some people like to use graphic organizers like a web. It looks like a spider web with circles connected. In the middle circle, write the main topic. Then make three "spokes" off of the main circle and make three more circles. These will be your body paragraphs' main ideas. Write the topics in those three circles. Then from those, add two to five more lines or "spokes" from those circles to become details you want to talk about in your essay.
Another way to organize an essay is to follow this basic outline form:
Thesis Statement (One sentence that tells the reader what the essay will discuss.)________________________________________________________________________________________________
Body Paragraph #1 main idea ________________________________________________________________
Body Paragraph #2 main idea ________________________________________________________________
Body Paragraph #3 main idea ________________________________________________________________
Conclusion (Wrap up essay and leave reader with interesting thought.)_________________________________
For future reference, this basic outline can be used for many types of writing, such as a persuasive letter.
Eighth Grade Writing Standards
Writing standards for eighth grade define the knowledge and skills needed for writing proficiency at this grade level. By understanding 8th grade writing standards, parents can be more effective in helping their children meet grade level expectations.
What is 8th Grade Writing?
In Grade 8, students refine and build upon previously learned knowledge and skills in increasingly complex essays. On a regular basis, 8th grade students are expected to produce coherent and focused multi-paragraph essays that are error-free and feature varied sentence structure. Eighth grade students are able to select and use different forms of writing for specific purposes such as to inform, persuade, or entertain. Eighth-graders edit their writing based on their knowledge of grammar and usage, spelling, punctuation, and other conventions of written language. In eighth grade, students use every phase of the writing process and continue to build their knowledge of writing conventions. Students use citations competently, follow research report formats, and present written reports incorporating graphics and media.
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What Writing Standards Measure
Academic standards are very specific, detailing every aspect of what students are expected to achieve in each grade. Organized into five key areas, writing standards focus on: Writing process, writing purposes (what students write), writing evaluation, writing conventions (grammar and usage), and research/inquiry for writing. The following writing standards represent what states* typically specify as 8th grade benchmarks in writing proficiency.
Grade 8: Writing Process
Eighth grade writing standards focus on the writing process as the primary tool to help children become independent writers. In Grade 8, students are taught to use each phase of the process as follows:
- Prewriting: In grade 8, students generate ideas from multiple sources and use strategies and tools (e.g., technology, spreadsheets, Venn Diagrams, plot pyramids, notes, and outlines) to develop a personal organizational style. Students choose the form of writing that best suits the intended purpose and then make a plan for writing that prioritizes ideas, addresses purpose, audience, main idea, logical sequence, and timeframe for completion.
- Drafting: In eighth grade, students develop drafts by categorizing ideas, organizing them into paragraphs, and blending paragraphs within larger units of text. Writing exhibits the students’ awareness of audience and purpose. Drafts establish a controlling impression, have a coherent thesis statement, and end with a clear, well-supported conclusion. In eighth grade, students are expected to offer substantial and relevant supporting evidence in the form of analogies, paraphrases, quotations, opinions from authorities, comparisons, and similar devices. Students analyze the language techniques of professional authors, including rhythm and varied sentence structure, demonstrating a command of language with a freshness of expression.
- Revising: In eighth grade, students revise selected drafts by elaborating, deleting, combining, and rearranging text. Goals for revision include improving coherence, progression, and the logical support of ideas and content. Eighth-graders revise their writing for word choice; appropriate organization; consistent point of view; voice; and transitions between paragraphs, passages, and ideas. Other grade 8 revision techniques include developing relationships among ideas using parallel structures and creating precision and interest through creative language devices.
- Editing: Students edit their writing to ensure standard usage, varied sentence structure, and appropriate word choice (e.g., eliminating slang). Eighth graders proofread for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling, using reference materials, word processor, and other resources, (e.g., dictionary, thesaurus).
- Publishing: Using technology, eighth graders refine and “publish” their work frequently in a format appropriate to audience and purpose (e.g., manuscript, multimedia). Published pieces use appropriate formatting and graphics (e.g., tables, drawings, charts, graphs) when applicable to enhance the appearance of the document.
Use of technology: Eighth grade students use available technology to support aspects of creating, revising, editing, and publishing texts. Students compose documents with appropriate formatting by using word-processing skills and principles of design (e.g., margins, tabs, spacing, columns, page orientation).
Grade 8: Writing Purposes
In eighth grade, students write to express, discover, record, develop, reflect on ideas, and to problem solve, and produce texts of at least 500 to 700 words. Specifically, 8th grade writing standards stipulate that students write in the following forms:
- Narrative: Eighth grade students write biographies, autobiographies, short stories, or personal narratives that develop an engaging plot (including rising action, conflict, suspense, climax, falling action and resolution), and that use narrative and descriptive strategies (e.g., relevant dialogue, specific action, physical description, background description, comparison or contrast of characters). Narrative essays in the eighth grade relate a clear, coherent incident, event, or situation by using well-chosen details. Students are also expected to reveal the significance of, or the writer’s attitude about, the subject.
- Expository: Eighth grade students write a variety of specialized expository/informational essays (e.g., process, description, explanation, comparison/contrast, problem/solution) that include a thesis statement, supporting details, an organizational structure particular to its type, and introductory, body, and concluding paragraphs. Other 8th grade expository writing applications include informal communications (e.g., friendly letters, thank you notes); and formal communications (e.g., business letters, invitations, job applications) that have a conventional format and require students to present information purposefully and succinctly to meet the needs of the intended audience. Students also write directions to unfamiliar locations and record information (e.g., observations, notes, lists, charts, legends), correctly citing sources.
- Research Reports: In 8th grade, students define a thesis and record important ideas, concepts, and direct quotations from significant information sources and paraphrase and summarize relevant perspectives on the topic. Writing should use a variety of primary and secondary sources and distinguish the nature and value of each. Students organize and display information on charts, maps, and graphs in support of the text.
- Persuasive: Students write to influence, such as to persuade, argue, and request. In grade 8, persuasive essays should have a well-defined thesis that makes a clear and knowledgeable judgment, Eighth grade persuasive essays should present detailed evidence, examples, and reasoning to support arguments, differentiating between facts and opinion, and arranging evidence effectively by anticipating and answering reader concerns and counterarguments. In addition to essays, an eighth grade persuasive writing assignment could be an advertisement, speech, or public service announcement. In tackling these writing tasks, students use persuasive techniques such as word choice, repetition, emotional appeal, hyperbole, appeal to authority, celebrity endorsement, rhetorical question, irony, symbols, glittering generalities, and card stacking.
- Creative: Students write to entertain in a variety of expressive forms (e.g., realistic fiction, one-act play, suspense story, humorous poems) that according to the type of writing employed, incorporate figurative language, rhythm, dialogue, characterization, plot, and appropriate format.
- Responses to Literature: Students are taught to think critically about 8th grade reading passages. They should draw inferences about the effects of the literary work on its audience and describe their own responses to the writer’s techniques and specific portions of the text. Eighth graders are expected to support their judgments through references to the text, other works, other authors, or to personal knowledge.
- Technical Documents: Students in eighth grade write essays to identify the sequence of activities needed to design a system, operate a tool, or explain the bylaws of an organization. These essays include all the factors and variables that need to be considered and use formatting techniques (e.g., headings, differing fonts) to aid comprehension.
In addition, eighth-graders choose the appropriate form for their own purpose for writing, including journals, letters, editorials, reviews, poems, memoirs, narratives, and instructions.
Grade 8: Writing Evaluation
Eighth grade students learn to respond constructively to others’ writing and determine if their own writing achieves its purposes. In Grade 8, students also apply criteria to evaluate writing and analyze published examples as models for writing. Writing standards recommend that each student keep and review a collection of his/her own written work to determine its strengths and weaknesses and to set goals as a writer. In addition, eighth grade students evaluate the purposes and effects of film, print, and technology presentations. Students assess how language, medium, and presentation contribute to meaning.
Grade 8: Written English Language Conventions
Students in eighth grade are expected to write with more complex sentences, capitalization, and punctuation. In particular, for grammar, 8th grade standards specify these key markers of proficiency:
—Write in complete sentences, including compound and complex sentences.
—Use varied sentence types and sentence openings to present a lively and effective personal style.
—Identify and use parallelism, including similar grammatical forms, in all written discourse to present items in a series and items juxtaposed for emphasis.
—Use subordination, coordination, apposition, and other devices to indicate clearly the relationship between ideas.
—Edit written manuscripts to ensure correct Standard English usage, including subject-verb agreement, noun/pronoun agreement, and the eight parts of speech (noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, adjective, conjunction, preposition, interjection).
—Use regular and irregular verb tenses appropriately and consistently such as present, past, future, perfect, and progressive.
—Use adjectives (comparative and superlative forms) and adverbs appropriately to make writing vivid or precise.
—Use prepositional phrases to elaborate written ideas.
—Use conjunctions to connect ideas meaningfully.
—Write with increasing accuracy when using pronoun case such as “She stepped between them and us.”
—Punctuate correctly to clarify and enhance meaning such as using hyphens, semicolons, colons, apostrophes, quotation marks, and sentence punctuation.
—Write with increasing accuracy when using apostrophes in contractions (doesn’t) and possessives (Texas’s).
—Capitalize correctly to clarify and enhance meaning.
—Eighth-graders pay particular attention to capitalization of names of academic courses (e.g., Algebra I) and proper adjectives (e.g., German shepherd, Italian restaurant).
—Use knowledge of spelling rules, orthographic patterns, generalizations, prefixes, suffixes, and roots, including Greek and Latin root words.
—Spell derivatives correctly by applying the spellings of bases and affixes
—Spell frequently misspelled words correctly (e.g., their, they’re, there).
—Understand the influence of other languages and cultures on the spelling of English words.
—Use dictionary, thesaurus, or other resources as necessary and spell accurately in final drafts.
—Write fluidly and legibly in cursive or manuscript as appropriate.
Grade 8: Research and Inquiry
In eighth grade, students select and use reference materials and resources as needed for writing, revising, and editing final drafts. Students learn how to gather information systematically and use writing as a tool for research and inquiry in the following ways:
- Achieve an effective balance between researched information and original ideas.
- Organize prior knowledge about a topic in a variety of ways such as by producing a graphic organizer.
- Ask and evaluate questions for research. Develop ideas leading to inquiry, investigation, and research.
- Take notes, summarize, and organize ideas gained from multiple relevant and authoritative sources. Make use of such tools as outlines, conceptual maps, learning logs, and timelines.
- Plan and conduct multiple-step information searches using the Internet.
- Follow accepted formats for writing research. Give credit for both quoted and paraphrased information in a bibliography by using a consistent and sanctioned format and methodology for citations.
Eighth Grade Writing Tests
In many states, eighth graders take standardized writing assessments, either with pencil and paper or on a computer. While tests vary, students need to know how to prepare for 8th grade grammar and mechanics assessments, as well as timed essay-writing exercises in which they must write an essay in response to a writing prompt. On eighth grade essay writing tests, students demonstrate their ability to produce an effective composition for a specific purpose, as well as their command of the conventions of spelling, capitalization, punctuation, grammar, usage, and sentence structure.
In some states, students’ revising and editing skills are tested with multiple-choice questions on reading passages for 8th grade. Students are asked to indicate how a particular sentence might be corrected or improved or how the organization or development of a paragraph might be strengthened. Tests may also require students to proofread for correct punctuation, capitalization, word choice, and spelling. Another type of question asks students to write a summary statement in response to a reading passage. In addition, 8th grade students are given classroom-based eighth grade writing tests and writing portfolio evaluations.
State writing assessments are correlated to state writing standards. These standardized tests measure what students know in relation to what they’ve been taught. If students do well on school writing assignments, they should do well on such a test. Educators consider standards-based tests to be the most useful as these tests show how each student is meeting grade-level expectations. These assessments are designed to pinpoint where each student needs improvement and help teachers tailor instruction to fit individual needs. State departments of education usually include information on writing standards and writing assessments on their websites, including testing guidelines and sample questions.
Writing Test Preparation
The best 8th grade writing test preparation is simply encouraging your student to write, raising awareness of the written word, and offering guidance on writing homework. 8th grade tips for preparation include talking about writing and sharing appropriate articles and books with your child. Students learn to write effectively when they write more often. Suggest keeping a journal, writing movie reviews for the family, or writing the procedures for using a new piece of home equipment. Any writing is valuable practice. By becoming familiar with 8th grade writing standards, parents can offer more constructive homework support. Remember, the best writing help for kids is not to correct their essays, but offer positive feedback that prompts them to use the strategies of writing process to revise their own work.
Time4Writing Online Writing Courses Support 8th Grade Writing Standards
Time4Writing is an excellent complement to eighth grade writing curriculum. Developed by classroom teachers, Time4Writing targets the fundamentals of writing. Students build writing skills and deepen their understanding of the writing process by working on standard-based, grade-appropriate writing tasks under the individual guidance of a certified teacher.
Writing on a computer inspires many students, even reluctant writers. Learn more about Time4Writing online courses for eighth grade.
For more information about general learning objectives for eighth grade students including math and language arts, please visit Time4Learning.com.
*K-12 writing standards are defined by each state. Time4Writing relies on a representative sampling of state writing standards, notably from Florida, Texas, and California, as well as on the standards published by nationally recognized education organizations, such as the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.
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