How to prepare students for the NAPLAN writing task

Remember the advice: ‘You don’t fatten a pig by weighing it’. NAPLAN ‘practice’ is not necessarily the best way to prepare for the test. Rather, the best preparation you can give your students is to make sure they have the necessary skills and knowledge. You will, of course, introduce them to the testing genre and explain key terminology, but before that spend lots of time making certain they understand the persuasive genre that they will be asked to use in the test.
Here are some random ideas:
• As a whole class, explore lots of persuasive texts (magazine and television advertisements, posters, short letters to the editor – purpose written, if necessary) to identify what the authors are trying to do (their purpose) and how they do this. This gives you an opportunity to examine the language, both print and visual, that the author chooses, and to discuss why that choice might have been made.
• Have students work in pairs to create simple posters and advertisements whose purpose is to persuade others to do, think or buy something. Ask them to explain the strategies they used (images, font, language) and why they think these would be successful.
• Have students work in pairs or groups to role-play persuading others to do, think or buy something. Other students say whether they are in fact persuaded to do, buy or think, and identify the language (both oral and body language) that was used to persuade.
• Select several persuasive texts and assist students to identify the words used to persuade. Introduce the idea of negative and positive connotations. Ask students to assist in drawing up a list of the persuasive words used – adjectives, adverbs and adverbial phrases. Get them to suggest alternative words which might have the opposite effect on the reader.
• Encourage students to use persuasive words in their own texts. Ask them to identify their deliberate use of persuasive words and to explain their choice in terms of how they are trying to persuade their readers.
• Explore the use of connectives used to organise ideas in a persuasive text. Use an IWB or similar and highlight these on the text. Ask students to use some of these connectives in their own persuasive writing.
• Use blank templates – boxes labelled with the structural aspects of an argument such as Introduction or point of view, argument plus evidence, Conclusion. Cut up the text of a simple argument, and ask students to paste the relevant sections of the text into the relevant blank space on the template. (This can be done electronically). Model the process first before asking students to work in pairs to complete the activity. Particularly focus on the evidence that is used to support each argument (because ….) and on identifying the words that sequence ideas and that are used to link one paragraph to the next.
• Draft and write individual, group or class persuasive letters for real purposes, e.g. to express a point of view about a school issue or one that is relevant to the particular age group.
• Help students to understand how persuasive writing can be adapted for different audiences and purposes, by asking them to write on the same topic for two difference audiences.
The Persuasive Writing section of http://www.otisa.com.au provides more activities for students to work through in order to improve their understanding of the features of persuasive writing. Otisa is available on subscription to schools and parents.