3,2,1 Write!

Posted by on August 4th, 2016

Several considerations must be taken into account when preparing students for success on the essay portion of the high school equivalency (HSE) test. To start, students must produce a complete work in a 45-minute period. The elements of the essay must include a focused topic, organization and sentence mechanics. Your work with students should include direct instruction and practice to address each of these components.


With only 45 minutes for the writing portion of the test, students must demonstrate their ability to plan, write and revise within the given limits.


Start the writing instruction by assessing where students are. What are they able to accomplish in the time given? Repeat this exercise frequently to see improvement in their production and accuracy.


Teach your students how to segment their approach to the essay focusing on each portion for a dedicated amount of time. For instance, you may encourage students to spend 10 minutes planning, 25 minutes drafting and 10 minutes on revision.

Focused Topic

Encourage students to read the directions and prompt carefully. Their response should adequately address the topic listed.

Mixed Prompts

During writing practice ensure that students are exposed to a variety of prompt genres. Descriptive, informative and other writing styles should be included in the preparation for test takers.


It is important that the text flows and is organized with a clear beginning, middle and end. For most students, this will mean crafting 3 to 7 paragraphs to adequately respond to the prompt and demonstrate the scope of their writing ability.


Teach students how to create an outline. The outline will help them visualize all of the pieces of their text and recognize any gaps. Scratch paper will be provided allowing them space to jot down their notes for reference.

Transition Words

Learners should practice the use of transition words to connect sentences, paragraphs and ideas.

Developed Ideas

Students will need to establish their ability to share complete ideas with their readers. Audience, message and purpose should be considered as test takers draft their essays.

Choose Carefully

Require students to choose their words carefully to express ideas clearly.

Graphic Organizer

Allow students the opportunity to use simple graphic organizers to organize ideas. Sequence of events, writing web and writing sandwich are types that may be most helpful to help student develop their ideas.

Sentence Mechanics

Sentence mechanics are comprised of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, spelling and word choice. Students should be strong in each of these areas to score favorably on the exam.

Punctuation Practice

Have students practice the various punctuation marks and appropriate usage frequently. Speak about how punctuation, like commas and semi colons, can impact sentence structure.

Spelling & Vocabulary Preparation

Provide students with lists of commonly misspelled words. Create frequent opportunities to build vocabulary and spelling skills.

Grammar Practice

Use a variety of approaches including direct instruction, games and interactive online exercises to practice proper grammar. Allow students to read aloud to themselves to listen for grammatical errors in their sentence compositions. Spend time focusing on subject verb agreement and common errors.


Through the combination of concentrated efforts on each area, timing, focus, organization, ideas and mechanics, students will achieve HSE writing exam success. Share the rubrics and address each topic specifically with direct instruction. Follow the direct instruction lessons with multiple, timed opportunities for students to practice their writing skills. The continued practice with explicit expectations will build confidence and capability for students to perform well in the time given on the actual exam.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *