|The philosophy underlying Contemporary's GED Language Arts, Writing is that writing is best taught as what it was invented to be: a means of communication. Those "rules" of English grammar and spelling that have traditionally been the main objective of instruction are merely the means to a greater end—the effective communication of one’s ideas.
To be able to write is a satisfying and useful skill—helpful in the real world of business memos and letters; helpful in learning other skills and knowledge, whether in school or not; and helpful, of course, on the GED Language Arts, Writing Test. In fact, the ability to write is a plus on both parts of the test: the multiple-choice editing part as well as the essay portion. That's because the skills one develops in writing transfer more readily to editing than vice versa. In other words, even when teaching for a standardized test like the GED, it is more appropriate to teach a student to write well than merely to spot errors; the ability to do the former often encompasses the latter.
What's in Contemporary's GED Language Arts, Writing?
The book begins with an introduction called "To the Student" that contains general information about the GED Test and instructions on how to use the book. You can use this introduction and the test tips it includes to ease students into what may be for many an uncertain situation, especially if this is their first time back in an academic environment since they dropped out. If you intend for students to study or even just read sections of lessons independently, you’ll want to go over the section "How to Use This Book" with the class.
The Pretest on pages 1–13 is a half-length GED-style multiple-choice test with a GED essay topic. The Pretest can be self-administered by the student, and Part I can be self-checked. However, if at all possible try to discuss each student's answers with the student. Ask why the student answered the way he or she did. Use the Evaluation Chart at the end of the Pretest to create a lesson plan based on each student's needs. You may use the Holistic Scoring Guidelines and the GED Essay Scoring Guide to evaluate each student's essay and evaluate problem areas.
The thirteen instructional chapters in the book are divided into two parts:
Part I: Editing
The chapters in Part I focus on the content areas tested in the editing portion of the Language Arts, Writing Test—organization, sentence structure, usage, and mechanics. The chapters in Part II cover the four steps of the writing process—gathering ideas, organizing, writing, and revising.
Part II: The Essay
- Chapter 1: Sentence Basics
- Chapter 2: Using Verbs
- Chapter 3: Combining Sentences
- Chapter 4: Organization
- Chapter 5: Using Correct Language
- Chapter 6: Mechanics
- Chapter 7: Test-Taking Strategies
- Chapter 8: Preparing for the GED Essay
- Chapter 9: Gathering Your Ideas
- Chapter 10: Organizing Your Ideas
- Chapter 11: Writing Your GED Essay
- Chapter 12: Revising Your GED Essay
- Chapter 13: Review of the Writing Process
Each chapter follows the same format—instruction in key skills followed by a variety of practice exercises. In addition, the book contains a number of features designed to make the task of test preparation easier and more effective.
- Each chapter in Part I concludes with a Chapter Review and a Cumulative Review written in GED format.
- Mind on Mechanics tips throughout the book provide information on capitalization and comma usage. (See page 96 in Chapter 3, Combining Sentences, for an example.)
- Editing Tips throughout the book give information about correct sentence structure and usage. (See page 58 in Chapter 2, Using Verbs, for an example.)
- Editing Practice exercises appear at the end of Chapters 1–6. These exercises allow students to practice locating and correcting errors in sample documents. (See page 45 in Chapter 1, Sentence Basics, for an example.)
- Evaluate Your Progress charts allow students to periodically check their knowledge of skill areas that have been covered up to that point. (See page 50 at the end of Chapter 1, Sentence Basics, for an example.)
- Chapter 7, Test-Taking Strategies, explains what to expect on the multiple-choice portion of the Language Arts, Writing Test, including the organization, sentence structure, usage, and mechanics skills that will be tested and the types of questions that will appear on the test.
- Part II of the text includes a Writing a GED Essay exercise at the end of each chapter. (See page 251 in Chapter 10, Organizing Your Ideas, for an example.) These exercises lead students through the process of writing a five-paragraph essay.
- A special feature called Raising Your Score helps students understand the GED Essay Scoring Guide. (See page 217 in Chapter 8, Preparing for the GED Essay, for an example.) Students will use this guide to evaluate and improve their own writing.
- Additional Essay Topics are included at the back of the book on pages 363 and 364 for extra writing practice.
Once students have finished working through the chapters in the book, have them take the Posttest. When finished, students can check their answers for Part I of the test. Again, it would be a good idea to discuss the answers with each student. This discussion, along with the use of the Evaluation Chart at the end of the Posttest, will help you see which kinds of questions the student tended to miss. Based on a student's score and the Evaluation Chart results, you may want the student to review sections of the book before going on to the Practice Test. If a student does well on the Posttest, you may save the Practice Test for a warm-up before the student takes the GED Test.
Suggested Teaching/Learning Activities
Following are specific ideas for managing your writing class and suggestions for teaching particular concepts.
- Create two folders for copies of each student's writing—one folder for you, one for the student.
- Have each student begin a journal. Request that students write in their journals for at least ten minutes every day. (If time permits, you might give them ten minutes at the beginning of every class session.) Monitor the journal writing from time to time, but by and large the students should view their journals as their personal writing.
- Create a file of student work to use as examples in your class. Such work should usually be an example of good writing.
- To underscore the difference between speech and writing, tape-record a student telling a short anecdote. Then ask how the story would be written. Guiding the class sentence by sentence, write the story on the blackboard or an overhead transparency, replaying the tape or portions of it as often as necessary. When finished, tape-record a student reading the written story; then play the two retellings back to back.
- Stress to students that sample answers are given for many of the practice exercises. There is almost always more than one good way to write a sentence. If a student is unsure whether his or her answer is acceptable, he or she should feel free to ask you. You might want to write a sentence on the board and discuss all the ways it could be written.
- No sample answers are provided for the practice exercises in Part II of the text. As students progress, pairs can work together and check each other by reading each other’s sentences and paragraphs.
- Assign plenty of "real life" writing activities—notes to children's teachers, letters to the editor, business letters of complaint or request, personal invitations, and so on.
- Start a file of good writing topics. Share ideas with other instructors. Dozens of topics are already presented in Part II of the text. You'll also find other good writing topics in Contemporary’s GED Instructor Resource Binder.
- Integrate reading and writing as much as possible:
- Have the class as a whole or in small groups analyze the writing techniques—organization of ideas, sentence structure, and so forth—of authors they read while preparing for the Language Arts, Reading Test.
- Ask students to write paragraphs and essays communicating their ideas about the themes of the literary passages they read.
- Have students find the main idea, supporting details, tone, and so forth of one another's paragraphs as they would for the passages they read in literature.
- Ask volunteers to read their paragraphs and essays aloud.
- If students need work on vocabulary development, games such as crossword puzzles or word search puzzles may help. (Some students, however, dislike such vocabulary exercises and resent "wasting time" on them. If you have such a student, dictionary or thesaurus exercises would be more appropriate.)
- Take outlines or maps of ideas and, as a class, write paragraphs or essays from them.
- Take finished pieces of writing—students' as well as published authors'—and outline the ideas or map them as a class.
- Take a paragraph and show how it could be expanded into an essay by making each of its sentences the main idea of its own paragraph.
- Have students use the Essay Scoring Checklist as a guide when they revise their writing.
- Make copies of some of the GED Practice exercises. Give students an excerpt without its questions. Have them rewrite it, revising and editing as they see fit. Then give them the multiple-choice questions to see if and how they changed the areas that required changing.
- Assign the reproducible exercise sheets in Contemporary’s GED Instructor Resource Binder when students are having problems in these particular areas:
- sentence structure
- subject-verb agreement
- verb forms
- spelling plurals, possessives, and contractions
- paragraph organization
- topic sentences
- irrelevant details