Preparing for PARCC/NJSLA Part I – The Six Step Process

Jaclyn Scotto Siano

The Six-Step Process for Completing the LATs and RSTs

This post is part of our blog series on PARCC/NJSLA. In this series, we offer tips and strategies you can use to ensure that your students perform at their very best on the PARCC/NJSLA tests.

In this article, we’ll explain our six-step process for responding to the Prose-Constructed Response (PCR) prompt on PARCC/NJSLA’s Literary Analysis Tasks and Research Simulation Tasks. Students who follow these steps will have a great advantage on tackling the essay questions in these tasks.

These steps are meant to be followed after the student has read the prompt and texts at least once.

Too many educators assume that students read a prompt and just know what it’s asking them to do. But PARCC/NJSLA’s writing prompts can be startlingly easy to misread if one isn’t careful. Students should be taught how to analyze the prompts and then state in their own words what the prompt is requiring of them.

For an example, read the PARCC/NJSLA prompt below. A student may read it and think that she is only identifying the authors’ arguments. However, what she’s really being asked to do is analyze the strength of the arguments.  

Question to determine strength of argument

Step 2: Rewrite the Prompt as a Thesis Statement

Once the student understands what the prompt is asking her to write about, she is then ready to make a claim in the form of a thesis statement. A thesis statement can be constructed following a simple formula: Restate the main idea of the prompt and then state your position. In the example below, I restate the crux of the prompt and state my position:

Rewrite the prompt as a thesis statement

Step 3: Gather Evidence

Next, the student has to gather evidence to support her position from—and only from—the text, not from personal experience or from life at large. The box below displays quotations that the student gathered as possible evidence. She won’t use all of it, but she wants to gather enough so that she has enough to choose from. Because the prompt requires the student to evaluate the strengths of the arguments in each text, the student should collect all the evidence that mentions Earhart’s bravery or demonstrates it by describing her actions. Based on the evidence collected, a student may notice that her original thesis needs to be modified.

Gather the evidence of the argument

Step 4: Organize the Evidence and Construct the Outline

This step is most often the hardest. Writing a clear and organized essay is relatively straightforward when you have a good quality outline. Organizing your argument and evidence into a coherent whole is where the greatest challenge lies.

The outline should address each of the three major sections of an essay: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion.

Here’s a useful way to organize each body paragraph:

A. Topic Sentence

B. Support

C. Explanation

D. Support

E. Explanation

F. Summary

G. Transition

With this order, the student ensures that she introduces the topic of each paragraph, offers enough support (textual evidence) for her thesis, and justifies the use of each individual piece of evidence. Ideas for transitions and summaries can be jotted down too, but they can also be left for the writing stage, when it will be easier to articulate them once the ideas for the body paragraph are expressed.

Here is a sample with two body paragraphs. The student should aim for specificity and simplicity. Sophisticated language is best left for the revision stage.

Organize the evidences in as a body

Step 5: Write the Essay

Once students understand the format of PARCC/NJSLA’s LATs and RSTs, the majority of classroom instruction should focus on improving the quality of students’ writing. Instruction should begin with the requirements of the task, followed by Steps 1 to 4 above. Once students have mastered the essay construct, instructors can assist students to write strong transitions between paragraphs, to make better word choices, and to write conclusions that leave the reader thinking.

Step 6: Revise, Edit and Proofread

The last step should be taught using explicit directions. Instructors often tell students to revise and edit their essays but don’t explain what or how students should do so. One method that worked well for my students when I was a teacher was to give them an editing checklist, catered to the specific prompt the students were writing from. After students finish their drafts, direct them to go down the list and confirm that they have each item or add the items they don’t have.

Revise, edit and proofread


Equipped with this six-step process, students will be able to craft clear and organized essays for the PARCC RST and LAT. Practice this process several times throughout the year, so that by testing time your students are clear on what steps they should take to complete the Prose-Constructed Response.

Inspired Instruction offers hundreds of PARCC/NJSLA lesson plans, online PARCC/NJSLA-like assessments with technology-enhanced items, PARCC/NJSLA workshops, and PARCC/NJSLA demonstration lessons.

Please contact Michele Regan for more information: or call 908-223-7202.

Inspired Instruction and Standards Solution Holding, LLC are not owned by or affiliated in any fashion with PARCC, Inc.

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