ReadyWritingandCreativeWritingHandbookfor elementary andjunior high schools
University Interscholastic LeagueMaking a World of DifferenceCreditsCONSULTANTSThird Grade Carol Senn (Elgin ISD)Fourth Grade Laurie Davenport (Whitesboro ISD)Fifth Grade Susan Henry (East Chambers ISD)Sixth Grade Alonzo Molina (Uvalde Consolidated ISD)Seventh Grade Elaine Whitfill (Snyder ISD)Eighth Grade Linda Foster (Goldthwaite ISD)THANKSBobby Hawthorne, Karen Werkenthin, Treva DaytonEDITORSPatricia Wisdom, Rhonda Alves, Treva Dayton, Lisa Parker2004 EDITION 2004, University InterscholasticLeague The University of Texas atAustin* Minor updates completed in 2017 for digital version
atin whdExpla ink woulthtuoyoubun abe f ing andhcaoftesomealso oblemsrthe p ink youhtuyotmigh nter.uencoTable of Contents(click on links below)What Is Ready Writing?Why Coach Ready Writing?How Do You Select Students and Judges?How Do You Prepare for Ready Writing?Evaluation CriteriaInterestOrganizationWriting TipsCorrectness of StyleReady Writing ChecklistSample CompositionsThird GradeFourth GradeFifth GradeSixth GradeSeventh GradeEighth GradeTopic/Prompt SamplesSample Topic/Prompt SheetConstitution and Contest Rules: Ready WritingEvaluation SheetSecond Grade Creative WritingConstitution and Contest Rules: Creative WritingWord UseSTAAR, TEKS & UIL Writing Contests
What isready writing?Traditionally, ready writing has been defined as expositorywriting or writing that explains. But, in reality, it can be anykind of writing: narration, description, argument. UIL calls thecontest “ready” writing because students come to competitionwith only writing materials and the information stored in theirbrains. Students come “ready” to write for as long as two hoursabout what they can recall or create from their experiencesand their imagination.Ready writing includes various kinds of writing that aresometimes considered separate modes. But in practice they arenot separate. Ready writing tends to be a combination. Theprompt may state or imply various writing strategies.For the sake of definition, ready writing strategies may beplaced into three categories:1. description (to inform) — describe a happening, person,object or idea from imagination or memory;2. narration — write a story; and3. persuasion — describe and argue just one side of an issue;describe both sides of an issue, then argue only one side;write an editorial; write a letter to persuade, etc.Contestants are given two prompts from which to choose.The prompts will either state or imply a purpose for writing,the format, the audience and the point of view. For example,the format could be a letter, an article for the newspaper, anessay for the principal, or a report to a teacher.Writers use forms of the words “explain” or “describe” inready writing prompts for elementary and junior high. Forexample, the closing line of a 1995 district seventh and eighthgrade prompt stated, “Write a paper explaining your position
on the best way to reduce teenage crime.” Writers can explainby using narration, description, definitions, logical reasoningand perhaps even persuasive arguing. While the overallpurpose of the composition will be to explain, the writer mayuse a variety of writing methods to achieve her objective.This handbook is intended to serve as a preparation andevaluation guide for teachers to use in preparing students forthe elementary/junior high ready writing contest. We welcomeyour comments and encourage the submission of winningstudent competition writings and teacher-made prompts to beconsidered for future publications.Note that all published student writings in this handbook aretranscribed as exactly as they were written by the student whereverpossible, including spelling and punctuation.READY WRITING HISTORYReady writing history stems back to 1916, when the Leagueadded essay-writing and spelling to the academic high schoolprogram. Since the inception of UIL in 1911, the academicprogram had consisted only of debate and declamation. Theessay-writing contest began as a take-home event. Studentswere required to write a humorous short story, based onpersonal experience, and submit it through their high schoolto the contest.In 1918, elementary and junior high campuses, or wardschools as they were called then, were first given theopportunity to compete in essay-writing. Instead of writing ashort story, contestants were asked to submit a patrioticcomposition on one of eight topics. Note the timeliness of thesepatriotic prompts: My part in Junior Red Cross Work; Arguments I Used in Selling War Saving Stamps; My War Garden and How It Helps; How I Have Economized to Help Win the War; “Extravagance Costs Blood—The Blood of Heroes”—Lloyd George; What I Am Doing to Help Win the War; Why Special Economy Is Needed in the Use of Wheat,Sugar, and Meat; and
How the Interscholastic League Promotes Patriotism.In 1919, the UIL set a two-hour time limit and requiredcontestants to assemble to write their essays. In addition,officials added specific instructions for leaving a one-inchmargin to the left, and a two-inch margin at the top, andplacing page numbers at the top of the page. Most importantly,the elements of organization, interest, and composition wereadded as criteria for evaluation.The 1920s and 1930s brought about other changes in thecontest. State officials refined and detailed rules and judgingcriteria in the constitution. In 1939, the name of the contestwas changed to “Ready Writing” to provide more flexibilityin the types of writing to be used in the contest.Many similarities to the 1916 contest remain today inboth the high school and the elementary/junior high readywriting programs. The one-inch margin on the left of the pageis one of those rules that has lasted forever, and League staffwriters continue to write timely contest prompts. Whilechanges may occur in such areas as correctness of style or“composition,” as it was called in 1919, the rules of goodwriting endure.
Why coachready writing?The best way to answer this question is to ask the veterancoaches. Elaine Whitfill, ready writing coach at SnyderJunior High School in Snyder, said ready writing is differentfrom the other UIL contests in that it is “not a drill-andpractice skill that can be scored objectively like spelling andnumber sense, and it is not the recitation of someone else’screativity as is oral reading. Ready writing is the writer’s owncreative self-expression in response to a chosen topic.”Whitfill said she coaches ready writing because “itprovides an outlet for creativity and critical thinking not onlyfor students with dramatic personalities but also for those whoare quiet and reserved. From within the safety of the writtenword, students may assume the voice of a character and freelyexpress themselves without the fear and intimidationassociated with public speaking.”Laurie Davenport, fourth grade ready writing coach atWhitesboro Elementary, said she encourages her students tofocus on their own experiences in writing. As she preparesthem for competition, she emphasizes, “Be different! Makeyour writing different from everybody elses.” She gave anexample of a student who won his district contest because hewas able to creatively incorporate into his essay things he hadlearned from his family background in recycling.Alonzo Molina, teacher for Uvalde Consolidated ISD, saidhis students learn to develop their own unique styles ofwriting through ready writing. Becky Lynn Cockerill, one ofhis winning students, said it is the short amount of time givento write that has most helped her to develop creativity. “(W)ith
a short amount of time given, more thoughts came into myhead than I would get with an indefinite time period to write.”PROVIDES VALUABLE PRACTICE FOR LIFESKILLSCoaches emphasize the value of ready writing in preparingstudents to be effective communicators of the future. For morethan 15 years, Carol Senn, from Elgin ISD, has coached readywriting for third and fourth grade students not only because,she said, “I love to teach writing,” but also because she realizesthat the writing strategies she uses to teach children are “toolsthey can use for all future writing.” She said this is a veryrewarding experience.“Ready writing is also excellent practice for writing as alife skill,” Whitfill said. She added that the capitalization,punctuation, and grammar rules learned through readywriting are applicable to all writing situations and are morerelevant to the students because they have learned them withinthe context of their own writing. The organizational andcritical thinking skills learned through ready writing are alsouseful throughout life.HELPS DISCOVER UNTAPPED TALENTReady writing helps some students discover an untappedtalent for writing and opens up such options as creativewriting and journalism. In addition, Whitfill said, “Others havefound ready writing useful as a means for exploring their ownthoughts or venting their frustrations.”Molina points out that ready writing contests allowstudents to express inner thoughts and develop uniquewriting styles which serve to open their minds to new ideasand goals.HELPS PREPARE STUDENTS FOR THE STAARReady Writing prompts utilize expository as well asnarrative prompts, and test writers incorporate the Read,Write, Think prompt format into a selection of the prompts.Competing in Ready Writing allows students to experience atimed writing experience.
The Ready Writing contest focuses on these threedomains: Interest, organization, and correctness of style. TheSTAAR writing assessment focus on: Development ofideas, organization/ progression, and use of language/conventions. Many teachers use ready writing in theclassroom writing activities to help prepare students for theSTAAR writing test. Some teachers might note thatbecause they teach STAAR and ready writing together aspart of the curriculum showing both the similarities anddifferences of the writing situations, their students do notneed to come after school to prepare for contest.BUILDS SELF CONFIDENCEWhitfill talked about working with her students,practicing and polishing their writing skills in theweeks before contest, but when it came to the contest, shenoted, “The students know that their essays will betheir own demonstration of what they know and who theyare as writers, strengthening their sense of achievementwhen their essays are chosen as winners.” And Whitfillproduces many winners at district contests.Molina said his students’ feelings of accomplishment givehim that same feeling. One of his students, Kellie Hayman,said ready writing allowed her to write in her own style, withconfidence that her style would be accepted. She said, “NowI write without fear.”“When you win first place in any contest, you’re going togain confidence,” said Davenport who teaches at a small ruralschool, and whose students compete with larger schools inthe Dallas suburban area. “It gives my students a greatsense of pride and builds their confidence when theycompete successfully with kids from larger towns.”BUILDS SPORTSMANSHIPWorking together with classmates, making new friends,learning how to win and lose graciously — these are alsoimportant fringe benefits of any extracurricular contest. SaraHale, 12-year-old ready writer from Uvalde ConsolidatedISD, said she has benefited from ready writing because shehas had the opportunity to go to different places and meetnew people. She said she not only learned to be a betterwriter, she also learned “how to be a better sport about stuff.”
How do youselect students?Most teachers can spot a gifted writer upon evaluating thefirst class writing assignment. But getting that gifted writer toparticipate in a writing contest may not be all that easy. We’vetalked about why ready writing is beneficial. It will beimportant to impart some of those benefits to your students asyou begin your selection process, and it will be important toset guidelines for the selection process.But what if you are going to coach students who have neverbeen in your class? Selecting the best students to compete inready writing may be done in a variety of ways. No one waycan be recommended over another because a variety ofsituations exists on each campus. The selection process should,however, provide multiple opportunities for writing practiceand progress, even for those students whom you alreadyperceive to be good writers. Therefore, building a team earlyin the school year is essential to successful competition. Weoffer the following suggestions for an equitable procedure forselecting your ready writing team.1. DETERMINE HOW STUDENTS WILL BESELECTED FOR COMPETITION.The following is an explanation of some of therecommended criteria that could be used in selecting readywriting students.QUALITY OF WRITING. Contestants should beselected primarily on the basis of the consistent quality of theirwriting. Students should be told from the beginning that theywill be selected for the ready writing team primarily on the
basis of the consistent quality of their writing. Determiningconsistency requires evaluating students’ writing in severalformats throughout the school year prior to and succeedingcontests. One writing contest or session does not providesufficient information for judging the top writers, especially ifyou have not worked on a daily basis with these students in aclassroom environment.PRACTICE SESSIONS. Provide a series (perhaps five)of practice/learning sessions in which concepts are taught andstudents are given opportunities to do prewriting and practicewriting activities. These may be incorporated into classroomlanguage arts/writing activities, or practice times may bescheduled before and after school, during an activity period,or at a combination of times that work best for the individualcircumstances. The information in “How do You Prepare forReady Writing” section will be helpful as sessions are planned.CONTEST SESSIONS. Provide a series of full writingsessions during which the environment is similar to a UILcontest in all aspects. Offer five sessions—require attendanceat three of the five. The same two hours or a designated shorterlength of time should be provided for all students writing tothe same choice of prompts under the same conditionswithout interruptions.Invitational meets provide the best opportunities forpracticing in a contest environment, but students should notbe required to attend these. Parents may choose to allow theirchildren to attend these as part of the three-sessionrequirement. If you find that no invitational meets are beingheld in your area, contact one or two schools and invite themto come to your school for a ready writing contest or festival.Make the arrangements through the school principals. Youwill find that a mini-meet will require minimal effort andproduce positive results.ATTENDANCE. Some of the best writers may notnecessarily be the most dependable attendants to the practicesessions or to school. Try to make the writing sessionspositive, productive meetings that encourage good attendance.Interested students will want to meet high expectations ofthem, so require attendance at three of the five ready writingsessions, and be sure that parents/guardians know when thesessions are to be held.
Students should not be required to attend all practice andGettingjudges? writing sessions to be considered for the ready writing districtPleasedon’t askthesecretary inthe office tojudge thereadywritingcontest.Althoughthisindividualmay bearticulateandcapable oreven be afree-lancewriter witha degree inEnglish,perceptionthat thisperson“belongs tothe school”and knowsthe writersis the firstnegativeaspect ofthisselection.Second,studentsdeserve tobe judgedby aqualifiedjudge orgroup ofjudges —those whoevaluatestudentwriting ona regularbasis.team. Set criteria that suits your circumstances. Useprofessional discretion concerning illnesses and students’ needsto attend other functions scheduled at the same time.ATTITUDE / BEHAVIOR. As in any school activity,students are expected to follow the school’s rules and basiccode of courtesy.GRADES. Although the best writers are usually the avidreaders and overall good students, it is not uncommon to finda gifted writer who struggles with, or just doesn’t like math,science or some other subject. Be attentive to those individualdifferences and avoid an overburdening of writing assignmentswhich may contribute to failure in school coursework.Setting a grade standard as part of the selection process shoulddiscourage neglect of other subject areas.2. DESCRIBE THE READY WRITING PROGRAMFOR POTENTIAL COMPETITORS. Explain what ready writing is to your class or classes. If you will be coaching students from other teachers’ classes,provide information about ready writing to these teachers.Ask that they explain the program to their students. Mention some of the incentives: awards, recognition,preparation for STAAR, preparation for communicationslife skills, a field trip with other classmates to competition,etc. Remind students that they don’t have to stand upand perform in front of an audience. Add incentives thatapply to your school situation — awards program,banquet, publishing winning students’ papers, etc. Send a description of the program home with students orthrough a newsletter to the community. Parents can be yourkey to building a successful program.3. SET A DATE, TIME AND PLACE TO MEETWITH INTERESTED STUDENTS.Depending on the school’s schedule, students may gatherduring an activity period, home room, lunch, before school,after school, during a designated class period, or on aweekend. The best time to meet likely may be an activityperiod, whereby most students can be present. You will need
approximately 30 minutes to provide students with an adequateintroduction.Create a flier posting the date, time, and place to meet atleast one week prior to the meeting. Include some of theincentives in the flier. Attach a picture of a student orstudents receiving ready writing awards from a previouscontest. Add testimonial comments. Print the flier on brightcolored paper. Mention the meeting and the flier during classor school announcements.4. AT THE FIRST MEETING, PROVIDESTUDENTS WITH SOME OF THE SPECIFICS. Reiterate the nature of the contest and its incentives.Announce how many students will be selected to competefrom each grade level in your district contest and introducethe criteria for judging. Describe how students will be selected for competition. Givestudents a list of criteria. Show students sample prompts, compositions, and judges’comments from winning samples provided in this handbook.(Time may limit the extent of the illustration. Answerstudents’ questions about the program first.) Talk about the writing. Add your comments as needed. Havestudents comment about the prompts and the writing. Somestudents may say aloud or to themselves, “I can do that,” or“I can do better than that.” Those who say, “I don’t think Ican do that” should not be eliminated from the prospectivecompetitors. With a little encouragement, many of thesestudents may become your best writers. Provide written information about times and places to meetagain. If you have had the opportunity to makearrangements for competition among other schools,provide these dates. You can get together with just one otherschool in your area and have a ready writing contest afterschool. Two invitational prompts will be provided by UILfor such a contest; a list of 16 prompts for each of the threeelementary and junior high contests is provided in thishandbook; or you can compose your own prompts using theguidelines also provided in the sample prompts section ofthis handbook.Gettingjudges?The UILConstitutionand ContestRules saysto select “asinglejudge or anoddnumber ofqualifiedandimpartialjudges,who maynot becontestants’coaches.”A panel ofthreejudgesworks well.
Send students out with a sample prompt and instructionsto write an essay to the prompt and turn it in at adesignated place and time prior to the next scheduledmeeting.Remind 5. AT SUBSEQUENT MEETINGS WITHPROSPECTIVE COMPETITORS, GET DOWN TOwriters THE “NUTS AND BOLTS” OF READY WRITING.The contestdirectorneeds toremindcontestantsnot to usetheirnames, thenames oftheirschools,teachers, orany otherspecificreferencethat wouldindicate theschooldistrict.Writing willbe moredifficult forstudentsunder theseconstraints.To assist thestudent, thepromptpageincludes arequest thatstudents notwrite theirnames ornames oftheirschools ontheirentries.First compositions will have been read, and ready writingevaluations that provide constructive comments and notationsabout areas needing improvement will have been preparedfor each student. You will have an initial idea about thewriting skills of your prospective writers. Return thesecompositions to students and discuss the strong and weak areasof this initial effort, always encouraging strengths.Instruction in the “nuts and bolts” may begin withstatements about interest, but focus on the organizational areawill provide a framework upon which to build that interestingessay. The section on evaluation criteria in this handbook willprovide some helpful tips for beginning.6. SELECT READY WRITING CONTESTANTS.Based on the criteria you have established and given tostudents, select your ready writers. Let the selected students’parents know as soon as possible in order that arrangementsmay be made for their confirmed attendance at the districtcontest.
Hiring JudgesIf you have been assigned the job of selecting judges,take into consideration the following suggestions ofpeople you might select: Ready writing elementary and junior high coacheswho are from a school district not participating in thecontest could be your most qualified judges. You mightuse a barter system, whereby this school furnishesjudges for your contest and you furnish judges for theircontest. You may use high school ready writing coaches fromother schools not in your district. High school ready writing coaches within your districtmay be used as long as these coaches do not knowany of the contestants. Retired language arts teachers who were formerlyready writing coaches make excellent judges and areusually willing to serve. College students who have previously competed inready writing and are majoring in a language artsfield have the concepts fresh on their minds and wouldbe willing to earn a little money for this service as well. College professors who teach writing can often judgeyour contest in the shortest period of time and provideexcellent comments on students’ evaluations. Professional writers or editors might enjoy reading andevaluating student writing for a change. An interested community member who doesn’t knowany of the competitors and has experience in a writingfield could also be selected as a judge.Regardless of their writing backgrounds, all readywriting judges should have the criteria for judging thecontest explained to them prior to judging compositions.It would also be helpful to provide an example of a firstplace composition from a previous year as part of yourexplanation.
How do you preparefor competition?The composition that best catches the attention of thejudges is most likely going to be the winner. Ready writingcompositions are judged on the basis of interest,organization, and correctness of style. While the judges takeinto consideration all three of these elements in selecting themost effective compositions, they’re most likely going tochoose the one that is most interesting.Students have already been made aware through regularclassroom instruction in writing that a composition shouldinclude an introduction, a body and a conclusion. Thedescriptions and examples which follow elaborate on theseconcepts, as well as other elements which contribute to theinterest factor (transition, documentation, vocabulary, voice)in evaluating a ready writing composition.Interest 50%INTRODUCTIONA strong introduction captures the interest of the reader.Writers should get a clear picture of their audience before theybegin writing. The audience will be either specifically statedor implied in the prompt. The writer should get to the point –the thesis – and avoid rambling or chit-chatting.Beth Bullock, sixth grade student at Panhandle JuniorHigh, provides a short introduction that expresses herpositive point of view and gives the reader a clear picture ofwhat will be discussed in the paper.
Jobs are very important! If people didn’t have jobs there wouldbe no way to pay bills or care for your families. Being a good workertakes a lot of practice, but if you have good skills you won’t have toworry about anything. Some skills that might come in handy arebeing good with people, being polite, knowing how to handle thejob, and having fun.Beth Bullock—Panhandle Junior High SchoolEighth grader Lexi Langley prepares her audience forinstruction in how to be a good sport in her concise andthought-provoking introduction.When playing any type of sport, both the fans and the playerscan get a little upset at times. Some people are able to control theiremotions while others aren’t. Those who can’t control their emotionsare sometimes labeled as “bad sports.” If you are a “bad sport” whowants to know how to become a “good sport,” there are manydifferent ways to show good sportsmanship.Lexi Langley — Elysian Fields Middle SchoolLexi’s essay won first place for Elysian Fields Middle Schoolin the 1996 district ready writing contest. This interesting,organized, and correctly-written essay may be read in itsentirety in the eighth grade sample winning compositionsection of this handbook.Brooke Williams, sixth grade student at Sweeney JuniorHigh School, combines all the introductory elements studiedfor writing with heightened interest as she speaksdirectly to her audience in words that they can relate to best.Brooke continues her personal essay by discussing in separateparagraphs the teachers, educational supplies, and the safeenvironment she introduces in this well-organize opening.(See chapter five for this composition.)Getting to be the one to welcome you all to Bradshaw Jr. HighSchool is truly an honor! Are there any butterflies jumping aroundinside yall’s stomachs like Mexican jumping beans? Well, if there areabsolutely do not let them bother you because here at Bradshaw youare offered outstanding instructors (teachers), wonderful educationalsupplies and equipment (which all add to your learning experience),and last but certainly not least everyone is guaranteed a safe
TransitionsTransitionsemphasizethe logicalorder of anessay orstory. Theyare the gluethat holdsthe composition togetherso that itrunssmoothlyfrom start tofinish. Hereare just afew of terwardAgainAlsoAlthoughAndAnotherAroundAsAt lastAt onceAt presentAs a ironment in which to be educated. So please allow me to sayagain Welcome to Bradshaw Jr. High School!Brooke Williams—Sweeny Junior High, SweenyBODYTransition: The body of an interesting composition willbe clear and include specific details and personal examplesthat individualize the writing as an outgrowth of the writer’scharacter and experience. Examples focus on the thesis andinclude transition words and phrases that smoothly connectthe elaborated points one to the other. The writer should avoidrambling.Farmersville Middle School seventh grader Erin Lethcoprovides an example of a focused and effectively elaboratedbody in her “no pass, no play” composition found at the endof this section. Note how each of her paragraphs focuses on aseparate subtopic that adds emphasis to the overall thesis: Nopass, no play is good for students. Smooth transition from oneparagraph to the next provides cohesiveness for the theme.Below is an example of Erin’s use of transition. Some of thetransition words and phrases used at the beginning and withinthe paragraphs are identified with bold letters.Second, the “no pass, no play” rule gives you a sense ofachievement when you are allowed to play sports. To define, itmakes you feel like you have already done something special. Forinstance, one of my friends was struggling in math. She really wantedto play basketball. When she passed she felt very priveleged. In myopinion the “no pass, no play” rule could build someone’s self esteemwhen they were allowed to play sports, and make them feel like theyachieved something special.Last, but certainly not least, the “no pass, no play” rule offersstudents a more rewarding future. In other words, your educationcould help you through your adulthood. Every boy has the dream tobe a pro athlete. If they never passed their subjects in school, and forsome reason could not become an athlete, they would have nothingto fall back on. However, if they would have had to follow the “nopass, no play” rule in school they would always have their educationto fall back on. This would offer students a more rewarding future.Erin Lethco — Farmersville Middle School
Documentation: Ultimately, good writing that emphasizessound logic and isn’t overloaded with emotion can bestpersuade the reader. To persuade, the essay must be credible.The evidence presented must be supported with facts.A good rule of thumb to follow when relating information Transifrom other sources is to include each of the following: who tionssaid it; when it was said; and where it was said. In order to be Earlierbelievable, supporting evidence should be factual and relevant Even ifEventuallyto the topic.FinallyStatistics such as, “Nineteen percent of the people in FirstAmerica are left handed,” also bring no validity to a paper if ForFor examplethey are not documented. Who said that 19 percent of the For instancepeople in America are left handed? Where was it stated? For thisreasonWhen?FurthermoreA ready writing composit
Ready writing helps some students discover an untapped talent for writing and opens up such options as creative writing and journalism. In addition, Whitfill said, “Others have found ready writing useful as a means for exploring their own thoughts or venting their frustrations.” Molina poin