On-Demand Writing Assessments: A few examples

Helping students learn to write on the spot—on tests and in the 21st-century workplace? Sarah Goodis-Orenstein shares examples of on-demand writing assessments for middle schoolers.

These are examples of the on-demand writing assessments (ODWAs) that I assign to my middle school students, as described in this January 2014 Education Week Teacher article. [HYPERLINK TO ARTICLE COMING SOON}

Sample ODWA for 7th grade students

In Jonas’s world, as described in Lois Lowry’s The Giver, the Committee of Elders has significant power over how the Community is run. They select Assignments for the Twelves, and all rules are approved and adjusted by them. While some of us may find some of their rules unnecessary, the Elders have their reasons. Similarly, in our real world, some countries’ governments have passed certain laws, that we may find unfair, for their own reasons.

After reading about how China plans to change their one-child policy that began in 1979, think about what rules in Jonas’s society should be changed. In a well-organized response, consider why the rules in each of these societies were originally put into place, and why those rules were (or could be) considered unfair.

In your multi-paragraph response, be sure to:

  • Explain why the one-child policy was started.
  • Discuss why the one-child policy is being changed.
  • Identify an “unfair” rule or rules in Jonas’s society as well as why they exist.
  • Use evidence from both texts.

Write your response in complete sentences.

Sample ODWA for 5th grade students

Both Richard Turere from Kenya and Matisse Reid from New Zealand have gained worldwide recognition for their amazing ways of dealing with challenges in their lives. Write a well-organized essay in which you compare and contrast the ways in which these two young adults responded to their challenges.

In your response, be sure to:

  • Summarize the challenges faced by both Turere and Reid.
  • Explain the similarities in Turere’s and Reid’s challenges and solutions.
  • Explain the differences in Turere’s and Reid’s challenges and solutions.
  • Use details from both texts.

Write your response in complete sentences.

Sample ODWA for 7th grade students

Throughout time, many men and women have been accused of witchcraft, yet their sad stories involve no broomsticks, black cats, or Halloween candy. In fact, innocent men and women were often killed in “witch hunts.” Read to learn about a famous witch-hunt that occurred in a Massachusetts village during the 17th century. Then, construct a well-organized response that explains the major group discussed in both texts as well as the two lenses, or perspectives, that are being used to describe this group.

In your response, be sure to:

  • Identify the major group discussed in both texts.
  • Identify the two lenses, or perspectives, that come up in these texts around the group.
  • Explain how these lenses, or perspectives, are different and which one is more fair.
  • Use evidence from both texts.

Write your response in complete sentences.

Sample ODWA for 5th grade students

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is considered a classic fantasy, but what if it were somewhat scientific? “Short Cuts” discusses the science behind wormholes, and the author explains that wormholes are not all science fiction. Using details from both passages, discuss whether or not the well in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland fits the concept of a wormhole.

In your response, be sure to:

  • Describe what wormholes are and how they could be used as short cuts.
  • Describe Alice’s experiences falling down the well.
  • Explain whether or not Alice’s well could be a wormhole.
  • Use details from both texts.

Write your response in complete sentences.

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