I was so inspired by Gretchen Bernabei's collection of high-scoring student essays in her book, Sparklers, that two years ago, I began my own project based on the book's theme: what can we learn from essays by students that score well?  Here's a quick history lesson of that project and access to the final set of Sparkler below my brief history.

In Nevada, we urge both our fourth and fifth grade teachers to use the six practice prompts we've designated for them.  Even though on-demand prompt writing isn't the most authentic type of writing instruction we can provide our students, it's necessary in order for our students to understand how the fifth grade writing test will assigned to them and assessed. 

I strongly urge against "cramming" for the test in the weeks before the exam happens (in January), but plenty of local administrators still spend December having their teachers assign a practice prompt a week.  Sigh.  This does little more than exhaust and turn kids off of writing.  You've got to start prepping much earlier, and you've got to spread it out to keep students interested in it!

I urge fourth and fifth grade teachers to designate three months out of the school year to narrative.  For a week, students should work on a practice prompt, learning pre-writing and revision skills as they go.  Then for three weeks after that, the teacher should teach an authentic narrative writing lesson so as to solidify those prewriting and revision skills in students' tool boxes.  Fifth grade should put their three months of narrative practice and learning in the Fall.  Fourth should do it in the Spring.

At WritingFix, we post great materials to help teachers assign and assess these practice prompts.  One of the tools we post to make sure teaching happens (not just assessing) during the practice prompts is our own set of Nevada Sparklers.  I wanted there to be at least four sparkling samples for teachers to use during pre-writing and revision; I wanted these "Sparklers" to be on the same prompts we had our students practice to in Nevada.

I took over two years, but we now have 4 "Sparklers" for all 6 of our designated practice prompts.  The final set was just added this last week as part of my narrative project; it was four fourth grade.  Earlier on this blog, I posted the video I sent to the class of fourth graders I worked with to obtain these samples; I also posted a very sweet sample from a student--Kaya--who didn't get chosen as a Sparkler, but wrote a sweet little piece about me.  I hope you saw both those posts!

The prompt the final set of Sparklers is based on was: If you could give a special gift or award to a deserving person, what would it be and why? Share reasons and details as you compose your answer.

The final set of Sparklers is now posted at our newly-revised  Narrative Homepage.  They look like this:
Click here to access/print all four Sparklers from our last set!

Next up: Sparklers for our brand new 6th grade Expository Prompts!  The work never ends!  Have a great week!


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