Last month we relaunched our website and with it a new section called Curriculum Resources. We’re excited to release the next resource – an 8-week curriculum designed to help students learn and practice for the ACT Plus Writing test.
Origin of the Practice Curriculum
This practice protocol was developed by Michael Schanhals, a veteran teacher with more than 20 years of experience, currently teaching at North Muskegon High School in North Muskegon, Michigan. Rather than simply prepare students to perform well on a single high-stakes test, Michael wanted to develop some transferable skills in his students, like developing well-qualified arguments, addressing multiple audiences, and situational awareness.
To do that, he boiled down the learning outcomes of his school, the ACT’s college readiness standards, and other standard sets like Common Core, to arrive at a series of skills and moves made by writers who perform well on the test; writers who score well:
- develop well-structured paragraphs
- address multiple perspectives on an issue
- use qualifiers when making arguments
- study the ACT rubric and codes used by scorers
- repeatedly practice timed, hand-written essays
The 8-week curriculum is intended to provide students with ample opportunities to learn and practice these moves. He teaches students the moves, students practice the moves by responding to essay prompts, and then students give feedback on peer essays using that criteria to drive their reviews.
This year’s results showed that even the weakest students in his class performed well on the writing portion of the ACT after working with this practice regimen and with Eli. Compared to the performance of weaker students in previous years, this year’s outcomes were dramatic. Additionally, the average performance of his students practicing for the ACT was nearly the same as that of a colleague preparing students for the AP test, and those students didn’t use the practice protocol or Eli.
Practicing the ACT Protocol with Eli Review
When Michael first learned about Eli, using it to facilitate this practice protocol was one of his first ideas. When he actually used Eli with his students, he found he’d underestimated just how much it would help him prepare students for the test:
With Eli Review, Michael was able to fit in more rounds of practice in the same amount of time. Perhaps most importantly, the data that his students produced through their feedback helped him get a sense of how well students were learning each of the moves and where he could best spend his time with supplemental coaching to make sure they were ready before moving on to the next practice.
Using the Materials
Michael’s 8-week ACT practice curriculum is available for free on the Eli Review Curriculum Resources website. His instructional materials include the following:
- An 8-week practice schedule, which outlines the practice sessions and describes the moves he coaches each week-by-week
- 6 review activities based on the ACT rubric criteria to structure students feedback.
- 7 writing prompts – custom writing activities and prompts taken from previous tests and resources from the web.
The materials can also be used any number of ways:
- Printing: all of the practice reviews and prompts can be done without any additional technology. Each can be printed individually, or the entire curriculum can be printed out easily.
- Load in Eli: if you’re already an Eli Review user, you can click any link in the curriculum site to load that task into Eli.
- Search in Eli: if you’re already signed in to Eli, you can search your task repository using a specific hashtag or keyword for that task, or search for #act in for all of the practice tasks.
To get access to Eli Review in your classroom, see the Get Eli Review site or contact [email protected].
Michael’s materials are released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, which means they are free to use and adapt as long as attribution is provided.
- Curriculum Resources: ACT Writing Coach Practice Curriculum
- Michael Schanhals: About the ACT Curriculum, and Eli Review and the ACT
- Eli Review User Guide: How to Use Curriculum Resources
- Eli Review User Guide: Task Repository