Ohio logo

Go to Ohio’s Statewide Testing Portal

Ohio Online Assessment Reporting System

High School — Writing
Writing Process

Good writers engage in a careful, multistep process. This can be daunting to students who want to write all of their ideas in one quick flurry. Encourage students to think of writing as a process, just like the development of a friendship or the stages of growing up. It takes time and there are multiple steps to follow before a writer can realize a satisfactory end result.

The steps of an effective writing process include pre-writing, drafting, revising and publishing. In the pre-writing stage, writers plan their writing for different purposes and audiences. As they draft, they establish their ideas and voices. They return to the text to revise, improving the choice of words and editing grammatical errors. They also check that the organization of the piece is clear. The final step is publishing the piece.

The Ohio Academic Content Standards establish the following expectations for student performance in the area of Writing Process:

  • Students must be able to engage in effective pre-writing tasks, including identifying purpose and audience and planning an organized written response.
  • Students produce compositions that reflect effective word and grammatical choices.
  • Students develop revision strategies to improve the content, organization and language of their writing.
  • Students must develop editing strategies to address the mechanics of their writing in order to produce a finished piece.

The content in this Teaching Tool is based on Ohio's Academic Content Standards and Benchmarks and includes types of questions asked on the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT) in Writing. While various suggestions and activities for working with students are included, this Teaching Tool is designed to complement a rigorous, research-based curriculum, not to substitute for one.

Writing Process

1. Writing Process

Click on the following benchmarks for more information and for links to annotated OGT items.


Benchmark A: Formulate writing ideas, and identify a topic appropriate to the purpose and audience.

Benchmark A: Formulate writing ideas, and identify a topic appropriate to the purpose and audience.

Before a writer puts pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, she faces two initial challenges: figuring out what to write about and organizing the message. A blank page or empty screen can intimidate even a prolific novelist.

The pre-writing phase helps writers think through a plan for their writing. Prewriting is the initial creative stage of writing, prior to drafting, in which a writer formulates ideas, gathers information, and considers ways to organize them. A writer must do three things before preparing a draft:

  • Consider what she wants to write;
  • Gather and organize ideas;
  • Clearly formulate a purpose.

Encourage students to explore their interests and generate writing ideas through the following exercises:

Generate writing ideas through discussions with others. Countless poems, newspaper articles and books are inspired by simple conversations among friends or acquaintances. Designate class time for students to share ideas, as this can spark inspiration for writing topics. Present groups with the following questions to get them started. As you facilitate, be sure that each student shares his answers and notes potential writing topics. These notes can become part of an ongoing list of ideas that students keep in journals or portfolios. Students will gather ideas both from recounting their own experiences and from hearing others' responses.

  • Events/Circumstances: What events in your life do you remember most vividly? A graduation, family celebration or loss? Share with the group how you felt during this event. How did it affect your life? How do you react to changes in your life?
  • Observing Others/Characters: Consider the behavior of someone in your life. How does this person react to challenging situations? How does this person interact with others? Can you describe to the group how this person acted in a particular set of circumstances?
  • Interests/Skills: Share with the group one of your talents or skills. What do you enjoy? What sports or extracurricular activities inspire you? What do you most enjoy about this skill? Who helps you cultivate this interest?

Find writing ideas in printed material. Writing is a powerful way to express opinions, share information and inspire action. Young people have strong reactions to world events and popular culture. These reactions can generate writing ideas.

Bring newspapers, magazines and journal articles to class for your students to peruse. Ask them to complete a graphic organizer as they read about current events. After filling in the organizer, encourage students to paste images and pictures from the articles onto the page. Images and photographs can help writers describe the sensory details of an event or place.

Keep a list of writing ideas. Ask students to add ideas generated by the previous exercises to a running list of writing ideas in a journal or notebook. Encourage them to add to the list as they observe situations both in and out of school that can serve as topics for their papers, class assignments and creative writing.

An important part of pre-writing is understanding the task. Ask your students to consider the content, form, audience, length and format before writing the response.

Content What am I being asked to write about? Am I supposed to respond to what I have heard or read or use details from my own experience? Am I supposed to explain a text, share my opinions or both?
Form How am I being asked to write about it? Am I supposed to write a story, a paragraph, an informative essay or a persuasive argument?
AudienceWho will read my writing? How would I speak to this audience in order to be sure the readers/listeners understand the information?
Length and FormatHow much time do I have to work on my response? How long should it be? Are there any special instructions I need to follow?

Click here to view an annotated item from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that addresses this benchmark.


Benchmark B: Determine the usefulness of organizers and apply appropriate pre-writing tasks.

Benchmark B: Determine the usefulness of organizers and apply appropriate pre-writing tasks.

Once students have considered the subject of a prompt, reflected on the topic, determined the task at hand and considered the audience, suggest a few strategies to help them organize and expand their ideas. Ask them to consider the following:

  • Personal Experience -- What experiences do I have with this subject? How would I describe what I know? What makes me an authority? Write down everything you know about the topic based on your own experience.
  • Background Reading -- What background reading can I do to learn more about this subject? Complete an Internet search using keywords to find Web sites and articles. Visit the library to gather relevant books, articles and journals.
  • Interviews -- What if I interview someone to gather more information? Who might I ask? Why is this person qualified to offer an informed perspective? Make a list of interview questions and determine how you can contact your subject.
  • Surveys -- What questions can I ask about this topic in a survey? Who is my audience for the survey? Why would this group help me better understand this topic? Create a list of questions for a survey and make arrangements to distribute the survey. Collect the responses and determine if they are useful to your writing.

Your students can use the information in their pre-writing notes to draft a clear statement of intent, a thesis. The thesis is the basic argument advanced by a speaker or writer who then attempts to prove it; the subject or major argument of a speech or composition.

Instruct students to craft their thesis statement using the following techniques:

  • Write a sentence that begins with the phrase I believe. This sentence should express the main idea of the writing. I believe it is nice to have a pet at home.
  • Add three main points to the sentence from the pre-writing, research or note-taking. These three points can help writers see the logical divisions for their writing, and help create topic sentences for the supporting paragraphs. Pets provide companionship, help you to be responsible and teach you to be compassionate.
  • Next, eliminate the phrase I believe so that writers have a statement of purpose that can be supported with details of the text. It is nice to have a pet at home.
  • Finally, experiment with using connecting phrases to relate the three main points to the central idea. The result is a working thesis statement that can help students set the course for their writing. It is nice to have a pet at home to provide companionship, teach responsibility and cultivate compassion.

Stating the purpose of the writing is a pre-writing strategy that allows writers to map the course of their texts.

Help students practice their note-taking and outlining skills. Cover the following methods of note-taking:

  • Clustering: This note-taking process begins with word association. Have students write words that evoke a particular topic. Choose a word that seems most important and place that word in the center of the page. For example, if the assignment is to write about the role of a father in a story, the word father might be the center of the cluster. Once students have determined the "center" of their thinking, they should add words that relate to this central idea and draw lines connecting related words. They will see patterns develop. These related thoughts will be the basis of their writing.
  • Listing: A bulleted list might help some students as it is a familiar form: the grocery list, the to-do list, the list of school supplies. Encourage reluctant writers: What are the points they might make about this topic? Remind them that the list needn't be in any particular order.
  • Outlining: The outline goes a step further than the cluster or list. It helps students develop a sequence of ideas. Ask students to first look at their clusters, lists or other notes to determine what information is related.
Title: Topic

I. First Main Idea
A. First Supporting Detail
1. Specific detail
2. Specific detail

B. Second Supporting Detail
1. Specific detail
2. Specific detail

C. Third Supporting Detail
1. Specific detail
2. Specific detail

II. Second Main Idea
A. First Supporting Detail
a. Specific detail
b. Specific detail

B. Second Supporting Detail
1. Specific detail
2. Specific detail

C. Third Supporting Detail
1. Specific detail
2. Specific detail


Benchmark C: Use revision strategies to improve the style, variety of sentence structure, clarity of the controlling idea, logic, effectiveness of word choice and transitions between paragraphs, passages or ideas.

Benchmark C: Use revision strategies to improve the style, variety of sentence structure, clarity of the controlling idea, logic, effectiveness of word choice and transitions between paragraphs, passages or ideas.

Organizing one's ideas can be the most challenging part of writing. The goal is to draft an effective and engaging introduction, a set of body paragraphs that support the main point or argument, and a conclusion that summarizes, extends or elaborates. Focus on these three elements, as well as on the sentences that compose each section, to help your writers create a coherent whole.

Once your writers have put their ideas on the page, the next step is to revise the content and edit for language conventions. Students should practice refining their writing so that the ideas are clearly expressed, the voice and tone represent the author's intended message, and the spelling, grammar and usage are correct. Once these goals are achieved, students can celebrate that their writing is ready to be published and read by a larger community.

Your students can revise the organizational structures of their pieces by using word processing programs. Ask your students to enter their notes or write their first drafts in a computer document. Encourage them to use the cut and paste features to copy information from their notes on the topic directly into their text. By cutting and pasting, writers can rearrange the order of sentences and paragraphs to find the most logical flow of ideas.

The following chart can help students revise their texts for clarity and organization. By providing guiding questions for the introduction, body and conclusion, you help your students to isolate the parts from the whole.

IntroductionFirst, tell the reader what you're going to say in a clear statement of intent, a thesis. Your introduction must lay out a map for the reader. In this essay, I am going to present three reasons why it is nice to have a pet.
BodyThen, make the points you said you'd address in the introduction, supporting them with details from a related text, if relevant. This section is usually composed of three paragraphs.First..., second..., third....
ConclusionFinally, remind the reader of what you said, referring back to your thesis, your original statement of intent.These are some of the reasons why it is nice to have a pet.

An effective introduction is the bait that draws a reader into an author's work. Encourage your writers to focus on three elements in their introductions: the attention-getter, the background information and the thesis statement.

The attention-getter -- When working with your writers on introductions, remind them that you will be reading many versions of the particular piece that you assigned. Explain that you love it when students make their writing stand out and command your attention. Ask them to pull you into the writing by suggesting that writers begin with an attention-getter, or hook, which might include a question, quotation or descriptive image. Share sample texts that start with a compelling question, thought or image. Discuss student reactions to these beginnings. In particular, examine the styles and varied sentence structures of these famous literary openings:

Charles Dickens began his novel A Tale of Two Cities with a single, compelling sentence: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

Likewise, Herman Melville began Moby Dick with the sentence, "Call me Ishmael."

While both novels welcome the reader with a single sentence, the two writers achieve very different styles with varied sentence structure. You might use these examples as your students focus on the style of their introductions.

Encourage your writers to use a variety of sentence structures and lengths throughout their writing. Have students revise for sentence structure with a chart that calls attention to their use of simple, compound, and complex sentences. Ask students to examine a sample of their own writing and jot down sentences in the appropriate columns.

Simple SentencesCompound SentencesComplex Sentences

Do your writers use a variety of sentence lengths and structures? If a writer has a disproportionate number of simple sentences, creating a choppy effect, suggest that she revise by using conjunctions (and, but, or, for, yet and so) or semicolons. This way, she can combine simple sentences to create compound sentences. (Be sure your students understand that compound sentences have two or more coordinate independent clauses but no sentence dependent clauses). Students may also add clauses to create complex sentences (sentences with one independent clause, and one or more dependent clauses). On the other hand, if much of the writing is composed of lengthy compound or complex sentences, ask your writers to experiment with closing off these sentences at the independent clauses. The rhythm of the writing is more textured when writers vary sentence length.

By varying sentence length, students control the flow of their writing. Long sentences carry a reader along a stream of information, while short sentences cause a reader to move more slowly or pause.

  • A simple sentence generally follows the form of subject-verb-direct object and is used to emphasize one idea. It takes time to complete the writing process.
  • Compound and complex sentences illustrate relationships between ideas. A compound sentence uses a conjunction to combine two independent clauses (clauses that can stand alone), giving equal importance to both ideas. Revising sentences is an investment of time, but it's worth it.
  • Writers use complex sentences, combining dependent and independent clauses, to emphasize one idea over another. When I pay attention to varied sentence length and structure, my writing improves.

As students revise for sentence variety, draw their attention to parallel sentence structure, the phrasing of language so as to balance (grammatically) ideas of equal importance. (Note: Parallelism may apply to phrases, sentences, paragraphs, longer passages or whole selections.) While it is important to vary form, it is equally important to consider the principle of parallel construction, which requires that expressions of similar content and function are structured in a similar way. For example, consider the structure of the following sentence: Lauren enjoys writing, she likes to read, and drawing is fun for her too. This sentence can be rewritten more concisely with a parallel structure: Lauren enjoys writing, reading and drawing. This revision allows the writer to maintain consistency in the list of things Lauren enjoys.

Good writing is rich with effective transitions, vocabulary, syntax and style. Help your students improve their revision skills by having them focus on the introduction, the body and the conclusion.

Begin by looking at the introduction. You might ask:

  • Does the piece begin with an attention-getter such as a quotation, a vivid description, a question or some other hook that pulls readers into your writing?
  • Does the thesis statement clearly outline what you will address?

Ask the following about the body of the essay:

  • Transitions: Do you move smoothly from the introduction to the first point and from one point to another by using transition words? Remind students that transitions are words and phrases that help explain relationships between sentences and allow a reader or writer to move from one idea to another. Such transition words as first, primarily, next, in addition, furthermore, finally and in conclusion indicate direction or sequence of ideas within paragraphs and between paragraphs.
  • Vocabulary: Have you used adjectives and verbs to paint a vivid picture in your reader's mind? If not, use a thesaurus to find more interesting word choices.
  • Syntax: Do you write sentences of varying lengths? Are some sentences long and descriptive while others are short and concise? Remind students that syntax is the way in which sentences are formed; the grammatical rules that govern their formation; the pattern or structure of word order in sentences, clauses and phrases.
  • Style: Which parts of your text sound like you? Review the idea that style is an author's distinctive manner of expression.

Finally, focus writers on their conclusions by asking:

  • Do you leave readers with a restatement of your thesis and something that makes them reflect on what you have written?

When we ask students to work on their writing style, in part we ask them to make their writing interesting and enjoyable. It can be difficult, however, to turn a quality like interesting into a concrete skill students can practice in class. One way to address this is to have students work together to find examples of good style. For instance:

  • Ask students to review one another's work for words or sentences that "sound right" or "are fun to read." Have them discuss why these words or sentences are appropriate or fun.
  • Students are often asked to write using vivid language but not flowery language. Spend time discussing with students examples of language that could be described as vivid and examples that could be described as flowery. Find and record examples, as a class or in student journals, of language that clearly paints a picture without overloading the reader with description.

After discussing these topics, have students look at published examples of writing for more examples:

  • Ask students to discuss what makes an author's style unique. For example, you might ask: "If you want to tell someone how to write a Dr. Seuss book, what rules should they follow?" Read some samples and ask students what they notice about these favorite stories. Lead them in their discussion to identify the elements of rhyme and humor that are common in Dr. Seuss's stories. Create a template that outlines the rhyme scheme Dr. Seuss commonly uses in his stories and have students use this template to create a Seuss-inspired rhyme of their own.
  • Encourage students to "mimic" different authors. The point is to have students practice writing in a different voice, and see if they can add variety to some of their own writing habits. You might ask them to explore the style of such children's book authors as Maurice Sendak or Margaret Wise Brown. Ask students to translate a text into Hemingway's concise journalistic style or to adopt the style of Hawthorne's descriptive, lengthy sentences.

Just as writers adopt a certain style in their words, they express individual voices through the tone. Tone is the reflection of an author's attitude toward his or her subject, whether it is friendly, formal, chatty or distant. Word choice also affects the voice in a piece of writing. Do you speak conversationally as you might to a friend, or do you use more formal academic language? The pattern of sentences helps to establish a voice in your writing along with style, form, content and purpose.

As writers revise to develop voice, offer the following suggestions:

  • Remember audience. A writer's voice changes depending on the intended receiver of the message. Think of how your voice changes when you talk to your teacher or employer as opposed to how you speak with your best friend. To practice this idea, ask your students to write two explanations of why they did not complete an English assignment. The first should be written as an explanation to a friend and the second can be written for a parent or guardian.
  • Consider the topic. The topic is the general category or class of ideas, often stated in a word or phrase, to which the ideas of a passage as a whole belong. Every author has some feeling about the subject of a text. Your word choice should reflect your thinking and feeling.
  • Check your writing for active and passive voice. For sentences written in active voice, the subject performs the action; the subject acts. (The dog licked the boy.) For sentences written in passive voice, the subject receives the action; the subject is acted upon. (The boy was licked by the dog.) Use the active voice to express your ideas directly and concisely.
  • Offer an opinion. Where appropriate, state your belief about a topic and support this opinion with facts and details.
  • Look at the topic from a particular angle. Adopt a tone of humor, seriousness, sarcasm or mystery in your writing to express the voice you want to convey.
  • Read the story aloud. Does it sound like you?

As your writers analyze their work for style, have them also consider the point of view, the perspective or attitude of a narrator:

  • Who is telling the story or presenting the information? How do you establish the point of view of a character or an outside narrator? Is the point of view the same throughout the text?
  • Is the information presented in the past or present tense? Is the use of past and present tense consistent throughout the text?
  • Are the ideas of this text consistently presented in first person (using I) or third person (using he, she or they)?

As students revise and examine the purpose of their overall message, encourage them to focus on the controlling idea, or thesis statement. A writer must tell the reader what she is going to say in a clear statement of intent. This controlling idea lays out a map for the reader to follow. Ask your writers to consider whether they have clearly communicated a central idea throughout the text. Ask them to examine their thesis statement and supporting details in order to determine if they have provided sufficient evidence to make their intended argument.

For example:

Thesis Statement / Controlling Idea: In Night, Elie Wiesel explores how his experiences during the Holocaust challenged his sense of faith, family and self. (This thesis statement divides the discussion into three main points.)

Thesis Division One: The Holocaust challenged his sense of faith.Thesis Division Two: The Holocaust challenged his sense of family.Thesis Division Three: The Holocaust challenged his sense of self.
Supporting Detail: He stopped praying.Supporting Detail: He observes others abandoning their own family members.Supporting Detail: In each camp, he changes.
Supporting Detail: He questioned how God could allow such atrocities to happen.Supporting Detail: Survival becomes more important than family.Supporting Detail: The focus of each person became food, sleep and basic needs.
Supporting Detail: He did not observe his religious traditions and holidays. Supporting Detail: He momentarily longs for his father's death, wanting to be relieved of the burden of caring for his father.Supporting Detail: He sees himself as having experienced a sort of death.

As students gather evidence to support the main points of their controlling idea, ask writers to consider the following questions:

  • Do the points in the controlling idea (thesis divisions) refer to details in the body paragraphs?
  • How can you add or subtract from this statement to put forward the most important point of the piece? What specific references to text can you find to support your ideas?

Ask students to organize a page in a writing notebook for each major point of the controlling idea. Students will write the idea at the top of the page and list supporting details in a bulleted list beneath each major idea. This process will help students pay attention to the details they have included in the body of their text.

While the controlling idea sets the course for the writing, the body and conclusion of the piece establish the logical argument. In order to support the controlling idea, writers must consider the details they gather to make their point, the words they choose to express their ideas and the transitions they use as they move from one point to another.

The tone of writing conveys the author's attitude toward both the reader and the subject, which can affect how the audience responds to the text. Voices sound different because speakers and writers use different kinds of language: words, sentences and forms of address.

Help your writers to further consider the vocabulary they use to establish voice by pointing them to relevant materials. Remind writers that the most effective writing does not consist of a lot of complex words. Dictionaries and thesauri can help students pinpoint the best words to express certain ideas. These words may not always be the most complicated or the biggest words. In fact, careful writers will choose the right words because they are the simplest, most concise way to paint a picture in the reader's mind.

Click here to view annotated items from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that address this benchmark.


Benchmark D: Edit to improve sentence fluency, grammar and usage.

Benchmark D: Edit to improve sentence fluency, grammar and usage.

By stepping into the role of editor, a writer must determine if he has followed the rules of Standard English. Editing a response involves a thorough check of grammar, spelling and punctuation.

In the world of publishing, copy editors correct mistakes after a draft has been prepared. They don't change the ideas of a passage; they simply look for errors. You might also find it helpful to make a distinction between these two tasks by telling students: "Let's not look at the ideas in the passage now. Let's just focus on what we can learn about mechanics."

Here are some ways to review mechanics in your classroom:

  • Choose a "Rule of the Week," then ask students to find examples of the rule in their writing. Have students work in pairs to learn from one another.
  • Type up anonymous examples of grammar errors from student writing and have the students work in pairs to find the mistakes.
  • Have students set "grammar goals" for their writing before responding to a writing assignment: "In this assignment, I am going to work on _____." Then evaluate how well the student achieved that goal.

Develop a list of simple questions to help your students proofread for errors in spelling, grammar and usage. Use a classroom resource such as a poster or handouts to remind students what to look for when editing. Sample questions might include:

  • Have you indicated where sentences begin and end using capital letters and punctuation?
  • Have you checked the verb tenses to be sure that you are writing consistently in the past or present tense ?
  • Have you checked your spelling, isolating each word to be sure it is spelled correctly?
  • Have you avoided run-on sentences?
  • Are there any sentence fragments standing on their own?
  • Have you eliminated inappropriate slang or informal language? Remember that different types of writing require different language.

Students should take advantage of the spelling and grammar checks on their computers. However, be sure to discuss with your students the kinds of errors that a computer might miss.

Click here to view annotated items from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that address this benchmark.


Benchmark E: Apply tools to judge the quality of their writing.

Benchmark E: Apply tools to judge the quality of their writing.

Effective writing is a combination of many skills: excellent grammar, strong vocabulary, pertinent observations and the ability to organize ideas to make a point. Help students use rubrics, checklists and feedback documents to respond to one another and to revise and edit for clear and precise writing.

Using rubrics for assessment. A rubric is an authoritative set of rules which can be used as a means of evaluation. The rubric may take the form of a chart or list that can serve as a revision guide for writers. Some rubrics combine indicators for quality and content with guidelines for grammar and conventions, while others isolate particular skills, such as a conventions rubric. When your students begin a writing assignment, provide them with a rubric to grade the writing. Self-assessment rubrics can serve as powerful tools for writers who are revising and editing because they provide a clear blueprint for students to follow.

Consider the following guidelines as you design rubrics to assess the writing in your class.

  • State a measurable objective;
  • Use a range to rate performance;
  • Arrange specific characteristics in levels to show the degree to which a standard has been met.

Consider this sample writing rubric as a model for student revision and assessment.

OrganizationThe writing lacks clarity and consistency of point of view. No clear introduction, body or conclusion means no sense of unity.The writing begins with a clear statement of purpose, but details in the body and conclusion of the text do not adequately support the point.The writing maintains a logical sequence, using effective transitions, but overall it lacks a clearly defined purpose.Writing is organized to create a coherent whole with an effective introduction, body and conclusion.  
Audience and PurposeThe writer fails to address the appropriate audience and purpose.The writer attempts to address the appropriate audience and purpose, but chooses inappropriate language.The writer appropriately addresses audience and purpose, but lacks precise, colorful language.The writer uses colorful language and unique style appropriate to audience and purpose. 
Sentence Fluency and StructureThere is no variation in the sentence structure or length.The writer attempts to vary sentence structure, but usage is somewhat awkward or repetitive.The writer uses a variety of sentence structures, but does not achieve a total balance in the rhythm of the writing.The writer effectively uses a variety of sentence structures and lengths (e.g., simple, compound and complex sentences). 
Word ChoiceThe writer's word choice is elementary or repetitive.The writer attempts to use colorful description and interesting vocabulary, but makes inappropriate word choices.The writer includes appropriate vocabulary but lacks consistent style, tone and voice.The writer chooses vocabulary that maintains consistent style, tone and voice. 
ConventionsThe writing is unclear or difficult to understand because of errors in spelling, punctuation and usage. The writing has errors in spelling, punctuation and usage that affect the reader's understanding of the message.There are some errors in spelling, punctuation and usage; however, they do not greatly interfere with the reader's understanding.The writing is generally free from errors in spelling, punctuation and usage. 

When your students take the OGT for Writing, the scorers will judge their writing using two separate rubrics, one to determine the quality of the content (the holistic rubric) and one to measure the accuracy of writing conventions (the conventions rubric). See below.

Holistic Rubric for the Ohio Graduation Test--Writing

6 -- This is a superior piece of writing. The prompt is directly addressed, and the response is effectively adapted to audience and purpose. It is exceptionally developed, containing compelling ideas, examples and details. The response, using a clearly evident organizational plan, actively engages the reader with a unified and coherent sequence and structure of ideas. The response consistently uses a variety of sentence structures, effective word choices and an engaging style.

5 -- This is an excellent piece of writing. The prompt is directly addressed and the response is clearly adapted to audience and purpose. It is very well-developed, containing strong ideas, examples and details. The response, using a clearly evident organizational plan, engages the reader with a unified and coherent sequence and structure of ideas. The response typically uses a variety of sentence structures, effective word choices and an engaging style.

4 -- This is an effective piece of writing. While the prompt is addressed and the response adapts to audience and purpose, there are occasional inconsistencies in the response's overall plan. The response is well-developed, containing effective ideas, examples and details. The response, using a good organizational plan, presents the reader with a generally unified and coherent sequence and structure of ideas. The response often uses a variety of sentence structures, appropriate word choices and an effective style.

3 -- This is an adequate piece of writing. While the prompt is generally addressed and the response shows an awareness of audience and purpose, there are inconsistencies in the response's overall plan. Although the response contains ideas, examples and details, they are repetitive, unevenly developed and occasionally inappropriate. The response, using an acceptable organizational plan, presents the reader with a generally unified and coherent sequence and structure of ideas. The response occasionally uses a variety of sentence structures, appropriate word choices and an effective style.

2 -- This is a marginal piece of writing. While an attempt is made to address the prompt, the response shows at best an inconsistent awareness of audience and purpose. When ideas, examples and details are present, they are frequently repetitive, unevenly developed and occasionally inappropriate. The response, using a limited organizational plan, does not present the reader with a generally unified and coherent sequence and structure of ideas. The response is exemplified by noticeable lapses in sentence structure, use of appropriate word choices, and a clear, readable style.

1 -- This is an inadequate piece of writing. There is a weak attempt made to address the prompt. The response shows little or no awareness of audience and purpose. There is little or no development of ideas, or the response is limited to paraphrasing the prompt. There is little or no evidence of organizational structure. The response is exemplified by severe lapses in sentence structure, use of appropriate word choices, and a clear, readable style.

0 -- The following are categories of papers that cannot be scored: off-task (complete disregard for the writing task identified by the prompt), completely illegible, in a language other than English or no response.

Conventions Rubric for the Ohio Graduation Test--Writing

3 --The written response is free from errors that impair a reader's understanding and comprehension. Few errors, if any, are present in capitalization, punctuation and spelling. The writing displays a consistent understanding of grammatical conventions.

2 -- Occasional errors may impair a reader's understanding of the written response. Some capitalization, punctuation and spelling errors are present. The writing displays some understanding of grammatical conventions.

1 -- Errors are frequent and impair a reader's understanding of the written response. Numerous errors in capitalization, punctuation and spelling are present. The writing displays a minimal understanding of grammatical conventions.

0 -- The following are categories of papers that cannot be scored: completely illegible, in a language other than English, or no response or the length and complexity of the response is insufficient to demonstrate the writer has control over standard English conventions.

Judging the quality of others' writing. Peer evaluations allow students to listen to one another and allow you to hear what students have to say about good writing. Checklists can provide guidance to help students determine what works and what is not successful when considering one another's work. Students might use the following checklist to evaluate one another's writing:


  • Details clearly support the central idea;
  • Moves the reader through the text.

Audience and Purpose

  • Uses language appropriate for the reader;
  • Effectively addresses the task/prompt.

Word Choice

  • Words convey the appropriate message;
  • Words are interesting and powerful.

Sentence Fluency

  • Sentences have a flow and rhythm;
  • Sentences are varied in structure and length.


  • Grasps standard writing conventions (spelling, punctuation, capitalization, grammar and usage);
  • Errors are few enough that the piece is ready for publication.

Ask peer groups to contribute to each other's writing by offering concrete suggestions for areas that cannot be checked on the list. Remind them of the adage we learn most by teaching others.

Click here to view annotated items from the 2005 Ohio Graduation Test that address this benchmark.


Benchmark F: Prepare writing for publication that is legible, follows an appropriate format and uses techniques such as electronic resources and graphics.

Benchmark F: Prepare writing for publication that is legible, follows an appropriate format and uses techniques such as electronic resources and graphics.

The role of a publishing house is to put together a writer's content in a form that will sell. The publishing world includes agents who work with writers on the idea phase of the process, authors who draft, edit and revise the text, and publicists who promote the book through tours, advertisements and other strategies to get the book into the public eye. Students who are engaged in the writing process mimic this professional world of publishing by ensuring that they have followed all of the needed steps to get their writing in final form.

Once students have completed the first four steps of the writing process for a particular piece, consider a few of the following ways to share and celebrate student writing.

  • Ask students to design graphics or illustrations to accompany a piece of writing for a display in your classroom.
  • Require that at least one assignment each term be published in the school literary magazine or newspaper.
  • Create a class anthology.
  • Create a book or Web site of writing your students completed during a particular unit you explored in class. Allow students to use this as a resource in another writing assignment on the same topic. Students can cite each other as authors, gathering support for their ideas from one another.
  • Assign writing that students can enhance with relevant charts and graphs to accompany the text.
  • Ask students to create an audio-visual presentation to display as they share their work aloud. For example, students might select music that fits with the theme, mood or subject of a piece or display related images. This presentation could be organized as a PowerPoint display that runs while students read their writing.

By completing the steps in the writing process, your students will deepen their appreciation of each other's work and look at their own writing in a fresh way as they share it with others.



Help With Fundamentals

These activities can help you address the fundamentals of Writing Process with your students.

Activity 1

Pre-Writing: Picture Writing

Jump-start your students' writing by exposing them to a variety of images from magazines, postcards, newspapers or the Internet. To get them started in developing topics for writing, ask them to answer the following questions about the images they have selected:

  • What happened just before or directly after this photograph was taken?
  • Describe the mood of the picture.
  • Which person in the picture would do the speaking? What would he or she sound like? What kind of language would he or she use? How do you know?
Activity 2

Drafting: The Art of the Introduction

A writer's job in crafting an introduction is threefold: The writer must grab a reader's attention, provide background information, and clearly state the purpose. Help your writers meet this challenge by providing them with a checklist, organizer or chart to use as they work on introductions, particularly for longer works, such as research papers.

Attention-Getter/HookBackground InformationThesis Statement

Suggest to your students that there are several possible ways to approach the drafting of an introduction. Many people write a rough draft without having a grasp on their central idea or their beliefs. Once the ideas are on paper, they discover or refine their purpose, so they may revise the focus, language or order of their introduction. Writers may find it helpful to draft an introduction first and then revise it once the body of the paper is complete. Students should consider a few different approaches:

  • Write the introduction before you write the body of your essay;
  • Write the introduction after you write the body of your essay;
  • Draft the introduction first and revise it once you have written your essay.
Activity 3

Revising: The Concrete and the Specific

Encourage your students to be as specific as possible in their writing so the details of the story come to life. Ask them to work in pairs on a sample piece of writing, highlighting all the nouns. Partners can challenge one another to revise for more specific details. For example, if a writer mentions a dog, his partner should prompt him to describe the dog in more specific terms, such as a friendly husky or an energetic golden retriever. If a writer mentions food, the partner should remind her to be specific. For example, rather than just mentioning food in general, the writer could describe a homemade sweet potato pie.

Activity 4

Editing: Grammar Journal

An English Grammar Journal can serve both as a method for students to analyze and reflect on their work and as a reference tool for students to use as they write. Encourage students to log past errors or discoveries from writing assignments as they study teacher and peer feedback on their work. Some suggestions for students to include in their Grammar Journals:

  • Parts of Speech -- Students might list parts of speech that have confused them, including some related facts and examples from their own work.
  • Punctuation Rules -- Students might record a description of various types of punctuation with sentences that illustrate correct usage in areas that have challenged them in the past.
  • Sentence Structure Guidelines -- Students can write different types of sentences (simple, compound and complex), including information about each type of sentence and an example of each one from their writing.

As you work with your students on particular grammatical challenges, encourage them to add information they have learned to their reference tool.

Activity 5

Publishing: A Writing Museum

Publishing is an important step in helping students understand that they have reached a final version of their drafts. A writing museum will give students, particularly those who are working on the fundamentals of the writing process, the opportunity to celebrate an important milestone.

The idea behind a writing museum is to set up a special place in the classroom for students to view one another's writing. They should prepare a final draft for display by printing out their text with enhanced graphics or illustrations. The class can then visit each writing sample on the wall. Ask each student to comment on or explain her work.

Other ways to make a writing museum special include: asking students to dress up, playing music, serving food and inviting other students or parents to view the students' work.

Additional Instruction and Practice

These activities may be useful for students who require additional instruction and practice with Writing Process.

Activity 1

Pre-Writing: Story Idea Box

Try keeping a story idea box in the classroom with general topics for students to respond to: a special day, a problem I solved, my favorite place to visit. Use these ideas for student writing practice. Ask students to write their own topic suggestions for the box.

You may want to practice writing both general and specific prompts to guide students through what details to include in their stories. For example, you might provide one general idea and three specific tasks: "Write about a special day you had last year. Be sure to talk about (1) what happened to you on the special day, (2) why it was special and (3) who you were with."

Activity 2

Drafting: Cubing

This organizational exercise challenges more capable writers to consider fresh perspectives. Like a cube with six sides, the cubing strategy approaches a topic from six different points of view. Ask student writers to consider a topic from six different sides, perhaps from the frame of reference of six different characters. After reflecting on six different points of view, students can determine what perspectives will be reflected in their writing.

Activity 3

Revising: Change the Voice

Challenge students to think about the voice and tone in a particular piece of writing. Ask them to revise something they have written to completely change the tone. For example, students who select a piece of writing that is humorous should revise to reflect a very serious tone. Those who revise pieces that are serious might make changes to express sarcasm. Have students share both versions and discuss how word choices changed the voice.

Activity 4

Editing: Proofreading Aloud

Schedule time for students to proofread by reading their work aloud. As they read aloud, students should note errors in grammar or usage. Ask them to share the mistakes that they caught and discuss why hearing the work might make it easier to catch errors in their writing conventions.

Activity 5

Publishing: Venues for Publishing Work

Encourage your students to investigate the opportunities to be published in their school or community. Ask them to compile a list (to post in the classroom) of all of the possible venues for publication, such as the school literary magazine, the school newspaper, the op-ed section of a local newspaper, letters to editors of national magazines, Web sites etc. When students take advantage of these opportunities, showcase the published writers' pieces in your classroom.

Advanced Work

These activities can help your students reach the next level in their understanding of Writing Process.

Activity 1

Pre-Writing: Keep a Writer's Notebook

Inspire your students to create their own topics for writing by providing them with materials and suggestions for keeping a writer's notebook. The notebook should be a place where students collect images, words and observations that they can use in their writing, both in class and on their own. Encourage students to share their notebooks at various stages during your explorations of the writing process. Ask them to talk about the images they have cut and pasted, the passages or quotations that interested them, and the people or events they recorded from their lives.

A writer's notebook can inspire students to connect their experiences and interests with their academic and personal writing. In addition to enriching their writing in class with interesting details, these notebooks encourage students to observe, record and write frequently in their daily lives outside school.

Activity 2

Drafting: From Start to Finish

Ask students to share a "story starter" with a classmate. In pairs, partners can write possible stories and endings in response to each other's prompts or ideas. Students can also share their "story starter" with more than one classmate and collect several possible endings.

When students write stories inspired by their classmate's beginnings, ask them to sometimes write endings that include fantastical elements (such as a wish, magic or a surprise) and to sometimes write realistic endings (in which a character solves the problem using her knowledge or skills). Encourage student writers to experiment with writing cliffhangers, suspenseful situations at the end of a scene, chapter or story.

Activity 3

Revising: Describe Your Style

Pair students and ask them to read several samples of each other's writing. After each person has read several pieces of a partner's writing, ask the pairs to discuss the following:

  • Describe the writing. Is it funny? upbeat? straightforward? flowery? vivid?
  • Does the writer state opinions?
  • Does the writer frequently repeat any favorite phrases or words?
  • Does the voice in these writing samples seem to mirror the writer's speech in daily conversation?
Activity 4

Editing: The Grammar Lady / The Grammar Gentleman

Establish a time once a week to challenge an assigned student to step into the role of the Grammar Lady or the Grammar Gentleman. This alter ego should visit your classroom prepared to lead the class in a two-to-three minute grammar mini-lesson that he or she has planned. The subject of the lesson should come from an error that the assigned student recently discovered in his or her writing. For example, if the student scheduled to appear as Grammar Gentleman had a comma splice pointed out in his last essay, he might lead the class in a brief explanation of a comma splice and provide some strategies for correcting them (such as adding a conjunction or a semicolon to the independent clauses that were mistakenly separated by just a comma). This activity might help make the study of grammar more relevant.

Activity 5

Publishing: Assemble a Magazine

Study the process of putting together a magazine and ask students to work in assigned roles. For example, organize distinct groups of editors, writers and copy editors.

  • Editors can decide what topics the writers will address and assign specific questions they should ask and answer in their articles.
  • Writers can practice identifying and following the format and length of a magazine article.
  • Copy editors can check for spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • Depending on your classroom resources, you might also have students act as designers or publishers.