How to Prepare for STAAR Writing Test? – Ultimate Study Guide
When your child is aged 9 to 13, The State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness looms large in their lives. And naturally so, as it assesses how ready they are to move to the next level in the education system.
The assessment is also significant in the parents’ or guardians’ lives. Children might struggle to prepare for the assessment on their own, so naturally, helping them prepare is going to fall on your shoulders.
However, that is more easily said than done. Especially if it is some time since you sat in a classroom or it’s your first time putting a child through the education system.
So if your child struggles with writing, or you just want to make sure they get the best grade they can, read on. We provide more information on the STAAR assessments and resources you can use to help your child prepare.
Table of Contents
What is tested in the STAAR Writing Assessment?
From grades 3 to 8, children must take the reading test. In grades 4 and 7, they must also do the writing test. Other subjects are added to the list as students move forward in the grades.
The STAAR writing tests are challenging.
Students are tested on their knowledge of the mechanics of the English language.
They can expect to be tested on:
They are also asked to write two types of essays:
- An expository essay
- A persuasive essay
In the expository essay, they have to investigate an idea, discuss the evidence for it, and set forth an argument for the idea.
In the persuasive essay, they have to persuade the reader to accept a point of view through their use of rhetorical language and supporting points.
For a twelve-year-old 7th grader, writing these demanding essays may present less of a challenge than it does for the nine-year-old at grade 4. However, the bar is considerably higher at this level in terms of the language they should to use.
The tests vary in difficulty level between the two grades, but things they have in common are:
- Writing the composition
- Revising it
- Editing it
For a child to reach the standards expected, a lot of preparation is required. Inevitably, given the child’s age in each grade, enforcing study falls on the parent or guardian.
How can I help my child prepare for the STAAR Writing Test?
Helping your child prepare for any exam is demanding. You need to become familiar with the exam and find the best resources to help you.
You also find yourself combining the roles of caregiver and educator. However, when you can gain access to the tools required, your job becomes easier.
Reaching out to an examinations preparation company that helps children prepare for school examinations is your best course of action. They are familiar with the tests and have the know-how to approach them.
For children preparing for the STAAR assessments, we recommend using the services of Test Prep Online, a reputable test preparation company with many years of experience in helping children prepare for school tests. Using their services, you get accurate information and exam preparation materials.
Their materials come in a test prep pack containing sample test papers modeled on the real tests, helpful explanations for questions and answers, and a method to check your child’s scores as they work through the tests.
The materials provide practice writing tests modeled on the real thing so they can become familiar with the format and feel calm and prepared.
What else is tested in STAAR tests?
Reading tests increase in difficulty level as your child progresses through the grades.
Students are assessed on material that plays an important role in preparing them for the work at the next grade level. Hence the term “Academic Readiness.”
Reading tests assess their abilities in understanding the plot of a text, deciding on the central meaning of the text, and their understanding of the literary genre. To do well in the test, children need to have a wide vocabulary and analyze a text.
How is the STAAR Writing test scored?
To move on to the next grade, students have to score above Level 11 Performance Level in the test. If the child fails the first time, they get two more chances to pass the STAAR tests.
How can I help my child with the STAAR Writing Test?
Here are some things you can do in your day-to-day life with your child.
Encourage the child to read from a variety of age-appropriate books. Challenge them by introducing them to more difficult books as their reading improves.
Libraries are great places for this information. Bring them with you or on a visit to a bookstore.
Reading regularly will increase the child’s vocabulary.
Children are curious so expect to be bombarded with questions about the meaning of words. Better still, equip them with a dictionary written for their age group.
Increased vocabulary and familiarity with the written word will make them more comfortable writing.
Write down vocabulary
Another useful tactic is to encourage them to keep a notebook for new words and meanings. If they are willing, encourage them to incorporate those words into their conversation or use them in some written work.
Similarly, you know how easily children mimic what they hear adults saying. You will hear the words you use when talking to your child replicated in how they might talk to you.
Ask them to do some written work for you. They could perhaps write about a topic that interests them or keep a diary. Encourage them to ask you about the words they are using or look at their grammar and spelling.
4th graders, in particular, will benefit from having you check over their written work as their test asks them to correct written pieces in a range of multiple-choice questions.
Don’t be afraid to suggest how they might change some of the vocabulary they use.
Encourage them to use their vocabulary notebook as a resource when writing. You could play a game to see who can find the most words to describe something they see or feel.
How do I get my child exam-ready?
Being a parent, you recognize the importance of not allowing exam preparation to eat into too much of the child’s free time or to cancel out activities they enjoy.
The following points should make the process easier:
- It is important to set up a preparation timetable that allows the child to continue to have fun and avoids the build-up of resentment against anything school-related.
- Start the preparation work as early as you can. It will reduce the stress levels if you allow more time to prepare and avoid the panic that comes with a last-minute rush.
Use the sample papers that come with the test prep pack.
- They will let you know what precisely your child is being tested on and give you and your child the confidence of knowing that the child is preparing using material that mirrors the real exam.
- This will give the child the confidence of knowing that nothing surprising will be waiting for them in the real test.
- It will train the child to work within the time allowed for the test, which will benefit them when doing the real test and the many more tests that await them in the future.
- The scoring system that comes with the tests also allows you to monitor the child’s progress from test to test.
- Keeping an eye on the scores will alert you to any difficulties your child may have and allow you to resolve the problems at an early point.
- With each test the child completes, they will gain confidence. Encourage them to compete with themself to increase their scores. Children rise to challenges, and the prospect of doing better than they did in the last test should motivate them to continue preparing.
Keep an eye out for signs of stress.
For young children embarking on the school testing level can at first be exciting. Suddenly they’re part of the group who do tests.
However, the magic can soon wear off, and they may become anxious as they see the challenge that lies ahead. Unfortunately, children won’t always tell you when they are anxious. This situation will make you combine the roles of caregiver and educator.
Your best option is to pre-empt stress-related problems:
- Ensure the child is getting adequate sleep and good nutrition. Regular breaks out of doors and fresh air also go a long way to keeping them relaxed and healthy and aids learning. A healthy mind in a healthy body is especially relevant for people preparing for tests.
- While you are helping them prepare, make it fun. Children learn best when they are enjoying themselves. Working on finding the correct answers to questions can be turned into a game between you and the child. A game that the child, of course, wins.
- Build in a reward system for the child and try not to limit the reward system to correct answers. A good effort is just as deserving of a reward as is the free time they are giving up for preparation.
You will, no doubt, be greeted with remarks along the line of, “My friend’s mother does it like this.” The most important approach here is to realize children are different, especially when it comes to learning.
What works for one may not for another.
The day before the STAAR Writing Test
The day before the tests begin should ideally be given up to some rest and relaxation. The temptation is to keep on working but a child will find it difficult to learn anything new prior to the test.
A free day is a better guarantee of good test performance than any last-minute cramming.
The child needs to approach the tests well-rested and clear-headed. Fresh air, reassurances that they have done the work, and an early night will help the child capitalize on all the work they have done.
Note: Access the individual STAAR test study guides, by clicking on the links below.
The STAAR Test Day
Test day can be demanding, so to make it a little easier, try the following tips:
- Prepare everything the child needs the night before.
- A solid breakfast will go a long way towards helping the child get through the day.
- Ensure you arrive at the school early.
- If allowed, ensure the child has snacks and a drink to consume during the exam and is wearing comfortable clothing.
After the test
When you pick the child up after the test, make sure you bring a reward, this time for having done the test.
You will want to give them the recognition they deserve for having overcome one of the big challenges of their young lives.
Written by Elizabeth O Mahony
With 25+ years’ experience as a teacher and state examinations corrector, Elizabeth now writes for the education and careers industry. Her experience preparing students for examinations and running an academy for supplementary education give her invaluable insights into what it takes for job seekers and graduates to succeed in assessments.
Sarah is an accomplished educator, researcher and author in the field of testing and assessment. She has worked with various educational institutions and organisations to develop innovative evaluation methods and enhance student learning. Sarah has published numerous articles and books on assessment and learning. Her passion for promoting equity and fairness in the education system fuels her commitment to sharing insights and best practices with educators and policymakers around the world.