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WIDA-Style Writing Prompts for ACCESS Testing Practice

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Oh, the ACCESS test, not me or my students favorite thing, but sadly a part of life for the ELL student. If you are not in a WIDA state I’m sure you have your own special version of state testing. I honestly don’t find the ACCESS test particularly helpful as far as informing my teaching because the results come SO LONG after the kids take the test. Unfortunately, it is what we’ve got and we have to do it.

So, while I don’t agree AT ALL with teaching to the test, I do think there is something to be said for making sure students are familiar with testing materials and prepared for what they are going to be asked to do. The one good thing about the ACCESS test is that writing prompts are content-specific so the doing writing practice for them feels like a good use of writing time in general as it prepares students to do writing in their content area classes.

To facilitate this practice, I created a few WIDA-style writing prompts. These prompts could be used for writing practice before the ACCESS test for students grade 8-12, maybe even down to 7th grade, but they are really intended for high school students. Now that the ACCESS testing is fully online, any printed materials can’t exactly mimic the look and feel of the test, but these are the same types of questions that I see on the practice test and after looking through the CAN-DO Descriptors on WIDA. To get kids used to the feel of the online test you can have them do the actual practice test through the WIDA website.

The Prompts

There are six prompts total. I just added two more. There is prompt for biology about the life cycle of a frog, an opinion letter (because I feel like they aways want them to do this for some reason), and a compare and contrast essay of historical figures. AND TWO NEW PROMPTS! The new ones are my attempt at a math prompt to do with running rates (I think it might not be great, feedback appreciated) and a prompt about monarch butterflies.

I like to give my students WIDA-style writing prompts about three times a year as part of the progress monitoring, that way I can conference with the student and see their improvement (hopefully!) over time. I score each student’s writing sample and then keep track of the scores over time. This is all part of my progress monitoring for all my ESOL students.

I created the prompts using Google Docs so that they could be easily shared and answered by students, however I print them out and give them as physical writing assignments. (More on that below.) I score using the WIDA Writing Rubric.

If you want these prompts they are available in my Freebie Library. Subscribe to get access!

Handwrite versus Type

I would print these and have students handwrite the responses. I am sharing them as a Google Doc an a PDF, but with the rise in ChatGPT and other AI writing software, I don’t feel comfortable having kids type a prompt that I want to use as benchmark assessment. I can’t monitor them all when I assign it. I would rather they type it because the test is typed, but you just can’t be sure it will be there own word. Additionally, when typing in any word processing program they have access to automated spelling and grammar check and/or advanced grammar checking with things like Grammarly. In summary, I let them type it I will not have a good understanding of their actual writing abilities. That’s just my two cents!

Happy testing!


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  1. Thanks so much for sharing this! I’ve been able to find good WIDA writing practice for K-8 but not for 9-12. Might you have any more or know of any more

  2. Hello! By any chance, do you have any student work samples to share with students? Exemplars?
    Thank you!

    1. I have some student work samples I can upload and post. However, for making sure the students understand the expectations for the test I like to use the exemplars provided on the WIDA website for the different scores, 1-6, using the WIDA writing rubric.

  3. Thank you for sharing these! BTW, could you please check the link to the writing rubric? When I clicked on it, it just took me to my Google Drive.

  4. I am giving the high school WIDA writing test. It says something about writing an argument to support your position. My dept. chair says it is a one paragraph essay. It looks more like a 5 paragraph essay. Otherwise, how can you develop your argument.

    1. I believe that it is not intended to be a 5 paragraph essay, but rather, as your chair suggests, a paragraph. However, I have found that students who write more and develop their arguments like a five-paragraph essay are the ones that test out of services. I encourage kids to think of it as an essay and write multiple paragraphs if they are asble.

    1. I’m working on them, but I haven’t given the ACCESS test to middle school in a while so I’m not sure the exact types of things they are asking. I maybe update at a later time with some middle school prompts. Thanks for stopping by!

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