Teach Students to Write a Dynamite Response in Five Steps

Posted by on February 4th, 2016

The language arts portion of the High School Equivalency test asks students to create a compelling response to a written piece of information. Students may be asked to read a passage or a grouping of information before possibly summarizing the piece. In order to gauge the student’s reading comprehension skills, the instructions call for a detailed response.

The goal of response questions is to determine if students can comprehend and synthesize information, creating a response that uses evidence from the text. Your goal as an instructor is to teach students how to create a strong response. These tips demonstrate exactly what your students need to do in order to craft a dynamite response on the examination.


1. Read the prompt carefully, ensuring your response answers the entire question(s) effectively.

In order to do this efficiently, teach students how to look for key words that indicate if a response needs to be personal or critical. A critical response will ask students to analyze, compare, contrast, or analyze. Personal responses ask students to narrate, describe, or illustrate. Some prompts ask more than one question, and it is important to address each one. Encourage students to read the question several times and then repeat the question in their own words to ensure understanding.


2. Brainstorm an answer.

Free writing and outlining are great ways to create an organized response that clearly demonstrates one’s ability to make a sound argument. Your students should build cohesive outlines that put arguments in order. Then, students can focus on writing instead of figuring out what to write.


3. Develop a topic sentence.

A topic sentence is sometimes referred to as a thesis statement. It provides the main idea that the rest of the response is focused on. Teach your students to develop a topic sentence and then support it with key ideas from the text. Remind them that the reader should get a good understanding of the rest of the piece just by reading the topic sentence.


4. Add supporting points.

Each paragraph following the thesis and introduction paragraph should provide evidence to support the focus of the response. Many paragraphs begin with a support sentence with a main idea, followed by a few sentences to explain the point. The more evidence your students provide, the better the response will look to HSE graders. Ensure that your student’s understand the value of a conclusion sentence to wrap up each piece of support and transition to the next one.


5. Proofread and revise as necessary.

Direct your students to reread the prompt and their response at least once to ensure that the answer is focused and accurate. Allow them time to practice proofreading and correcting grammar or other mechanical errors.


Teaching your students to write effective responses can feel like a daunting task. Break down the process into smaller chunks to make it more manageable. Once your students master one aspect, move on to the next. Allow them to gain confidence in writing by responding to topics that interest them before moving on to written pieces more likely to be on the exam.



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