Writing prompt that fits Common Core

Common Core State Standards for writing are causing a great deal of concern and confusion, much of which could be cleared up by reading the standards.

The standards focus on higher level learning. The standards call for students to graduate from high school with knowledge they can use and do use. It’s not enough that students can score well on some standardized test. They have to be able to take what they know and use it to learn what they don’t know, even when what they know and what they don’t know are in seemingly unrelated fields.

A student’s question in the essay help forum included a writing prompt that illustrates the kind of assignment that fits the Common Core State Standards. The prompt was an assignment for a college business class, but the writing prompt is about language use. The prompt is challenging but not impossible even for average students providing they’ve been taught writing strategies to get them started.

Here’s what the student posted:

I need essay help with researching a fairly obscure topic. I am a second year university student, attempting to write an essay for a business writing class. The assignment is:

“With particular attention to the implications of writing style choices (vocabulary, verb tense, etc), do research on writing as it relates to business ethics.

“Discuss the ethical implications of particular style choices for business. Refer to at least one example from your own experience (either as a business person or as a customer). If you cannot do this, say so in the paper and supply an extra example from your research) and at least one example from your research. Use the exercises and topics in class to develop your ideas and outline your paper. First person point of view is acceptable.

“Conclude by discussing the communications choices you would make in these or similar situations and how you would carry them out. Use as supporting material the research you have done into ethical style choices.”

Essentially, I am having the most difficulty finding any relevant information to analyze and discuss. The professor gave examples of possible topics (e.g. the use of conditional language in contracts) but, I still cannot find any information.

Are there any certain specific resources that may be especially useful? Broad queries using search engines or academic journal databases are not working.

Note that the writing prompt:

  • Provides context for the assignment.
  • Cannot be answered by cutting and pasting results of an Internet search.
  • Requires personal experience as well as researched evidence.
  • Gives answers to questions the students are likely to have, such as whether first person is acceptable .
  • Asks students to construct a guide to future behavior based on their research.

You can read a copy of my response in which I show the student how to guess a working thesis to use as a starting place for her research.

The student reported that she got an A+ on her paper. She also said, ” I feel pretty confident with my second essay of the term.”

I love when students say, “I can do this myself.”

If you as a writing teacher can embrace Common Core State Standards as an opportunity to break away from the straightjacket of the standardized test mentality, I think you may be pleasantly surprised by how they free you to do the kind of teaching you have always wanted to do.

[This post has been edited to include information provided by hyperlink in the original July 2012 post.   The essay help form was part of the website you-can-teach-writing.com, which I closed in December 2013. ]