Is Your Child Ready for Writing Assessments?

February 26, 2020
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The time of year for writing assessments is quickly approaching! What does that mean? For many homeschool parents, it’s time to assess their child’s progress to determine which skills still need to be taught or practiced. Without routine standardized tests or a classroom of peers for comparison, how do you determine what your child’s goals should be?

What Should Writing Look Like at the Elementary Level?

Writing at the elementary level (K-5) focuses on foundational writing skills. As children progress from Kindergarten to fifth grade, their writing should demonstrate familiarity with basic skills (including vocabulary, grammar, and the organization of ideas) while addressing more and more demanding text content and sources. 

By the end of fifth grade, your child should be able to write the following:

  • Opinion Pieces:  Writing should clearly state an opinion; have an organized, logical structure of supporting facts and details; maximize flow using transitional words; and have a strong concluding statement.
  • Informative/Explanatory Texts:  Writing should clearly introduce a topic and provide a focus; group information logically; include facts, quotations, definitions, and/or concrete details to convey information; use topic-specific vocabulary; incorporate formatting, illustrations, and multimedia when appropriate; and end with a concluding statement.
  • Narratives:  Writing should establish the situation and setting; introduce the narrator and/or characters; present an organized sequence of real or imagined events; use narrative techniques such as dialogue and description; incorporate transitional words, concrete phrases, and sensory details; and provide a conclusion.

Prior to beginning middle school, make sure your homeschooler is writing with a purpose and audience in mind and using the writing process (i.e., including editing/revising and rewriting). This is also a good time for working on collaboration, completing short research projects, summarizing and paraphrasing, providing lists of sources, and analyzing texts.

What Should Writing Look Like at the Middle School Level?

Writing at the middle school level (grades 6-8) requires your homeschooler to continue working on the knowledge and skills from earlier grades while building new skills in language use and addressing more difficult writing mechanics.

By the end of eighth grade, your child should be able to write the following:

  • Arguments:  Argument writing at the middle school level should acknowledge and distinguish claims from alternate or opposing claims; use accurate, credible sources; clarify relationships of claims, counterclaims, reasons, and evidence; and maintain a formal style.
  • Informative/Explanatory Texts:  Informational writing at the middle school level should demonstrate analysis of relevant content; introduce the topic with a preview of what is to follow; organize material into broader categories (with headings); include graphics (i.e., charts and tables) when useful; clarify relationships between ideas and concepts; and maintain a formal style.
  • Narratives:  Narrative writing at the middle school level should establish context and point of view; use a variety of transition words to signal shifts in setting or time frame and to clarify relationships among events; and include precise descriptions and sensory language to fully convey story elements.

At the middle school level, research writing becomes more important. Make sure to include self-generated questions, several sources, and follow-up questions. Try to emphasize that reference materials should be gathered from multiple types of sources, be assessed for credibility, be appropriately included to avoid plagiarism, and be cited using a standard format.

What Should Writing Look Like at the High School Level?

Writing at the high school level (grades 9-12) should prepare students for the future. This includes writing for general purposes as well as writing for specific academic or career-based tasks. High school writing should work on all earlier knowledge and skills with a greater mastery of techniques and craft.

By the end of twelfth grade, your child should be able to write the following:

  • Arguments:  Arguments should be fully developed using a logical sequence of claims, counterclaims, valid reasoning, and sufficient evidence. Writers should establish the significance, strengths, and limitations of claims in a way that considers the knowledge, values, and biases of the audience. Sentences should include a variety of words, phrases, clauses, and syntax but also create cohesion while using both a formal style and objective tone.
  • Informative/Explanatory Texts:  Writing at this level should convey complex concepts, ideas, and information that combines elements into a unified whole. The audience’s knowledge of the topic should be reflected in the facts, definitions, details, and quotations that are used; and relationships among concepts should be clarified. Writers should incorporate domain-specific vocabulary and techniques such as analogy, simile, and metaphor; a formal style and objective tone; and a conclusion that establishes the impact or significance of the topic.
  • Narratives:  Narratives at this level should include multiple points of view or multiple plot lines; build toward a certain tone or outcome; create vivid pictures of events, settings, and characters; and include a conclusion that follows from and reflects the events and culminates in an appropriate resolution.

This is a good time to ensure that homeschoolers are using their research and writing skills to explore and solve problems, narrow or broaden the scope of questions, combine information into new ideas, and share knowledge on a topic. Try to focus on completing advanced searches for information, assessing sources based on strengths and limitations, purpose, and audience; and fluently integrating ideas without plagiarizing or relying on one source as well.

What Can Help Students Get to Where They Need to Be?

Once your child’s areas of strength and challenge are identified, there are many great ways to work on building his or her writing skills. If writing isn’t your strong suit, try joining a homeschool group! Other homeschool parents are a great resource and often have tips and tricks that can help out. You can also look online for templates and resources designed by other parents and helpful teachers specific to your homeschooler’s grade level and needs. Another option is to supplement your lessons with Time4Writing, which offers 8-week online writing courses at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Each course covers specific skills through online instruction, quizzes, and assignments graded by certified writing teachers.


Time4Writing offers 8-week online writing courses for students in elementary, middle, and high school. Each interactive course is led by a certified writing teacher who gives prompt and personalized feedback on all assignments. Courses can be accessed 24/7 from any device with an internet connection and come with a 14-day money-back guarantee.