Is your child ready to take the Maryland Writing Test?

October 26, 2000

Is your child ready to take the Maryland Writing Test?

Teaching your child | By Lisa Tedrick Prejean

In the next few weeks, seventh-graders in Washington County public schools will be preparing for the Maryland Writing Test, which they will take Nov. 29 and 30.

The test is important because students must pass it to graduate.

If they don't pass the test in seventh grade, they take it each year until they do.

Students who are new to Maryland schools also take the test.

Parents can help prepare their children by reinforcing the concepts presented by teachers, says Pam Ours, reading/English language arts resource teacher for the Washington County Board of Education.

The test measures writing competency through two writing samples - narrative and explanatory.

In narrative writing, sequence and development of details are used to tell a story.

In explanatory writing, clarity and completeness are important to explain a process or problem.


In the test, students are given a three-paragraph explanation of the writing assignment.

The first and third paragraphs tell the student what the assignment is - what form it should take, who the audience is, what the topic is and what the purpose is. The second paragraph tells the student how to approach the topic.

Most students are good at telling a story for the narrative segment but have trouble with the explanatory part, which is given on the second day, Ours says.

Parents can work with their children at home by following these tips from Ours and Simao Drew, a reading/English language arts teacher at Springfield Middle School:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Help your child practice explanatory writing by asking him to describe how to make a sandwich. Here are two examples of how he might start:

"I know how to make a sandwich. You need two pieces of bread, a knife, peanut butter, jelly ..."

"To make a sandwich, first you lay two pieces of bread on a flat surface, then you take a knife and dip it in the peanut butter jar ..."

The second example, with explicit detail, is expected on the test.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Read over a writing assignment with your child and ask him, "Does this make sense?" If it doesn't, ask, "What exactly are you trying to say?" He may admit he didn't explain what he wanted to say very well. Ask him to explain his reasoning. Can you understand it?

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Encourage your child to write for a purpose - a letter to the principal or a newspaper editor about something that concerns him.

Other things to know about the test:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> In 1999, 92 percent of Maryland students and 95 percent of Washington County students had passed it by ninth grade.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> There's no time limit. Students are given as much time as they need.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> They may not use a dictionary or thesaurus.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> There's no length requirement, but all requested elements have to be included in the three pages allowed.

"Chances are if they just write one paragraph, they will not pass," Ours says.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> If a student fails the writing test, it doesn't mean he will fail the class. It just means he will have to take the test again.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> This year's results will be available in March or April.

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