Beacon Lesson Plan Library

FCAT Writes! Frenzy

Fran Mallory


Students that are test anxious greatly benefit from this practice run. Using the two most critical features FCAT Writes! places on our students, time constraints and the unknown prompt, students experience a dress rehearsal of timed demand writing.


The student refines vocabulary for interpersonal, academic, and workplace situations, including figurative, idiomatic, and technical meanings.

The student selects and uses appropriate pre-writing strategies, such as brainstorming, graphic organizers, and outlines.

The student drafts and revises writing that: is focused, purposeful, and reflects insight into the writing situation; has an organizational pattern that provides for a logical progression of ideas; has effective use of transitional devices that contribute to a sense of completeness; has support that is substantial, specific, relevant, and concrete; demonstrates a commitment to and involvement with the subject; uses creative writing strategies as appropriate to the purpose of the paper; demonstrates a mature command of language with precision of expression; has varied sentence structure; and has few, if any, convention errors in mechanics, usage, punctuation, and spelling.

The student organizes information using appropriate systems.

The student writes fluently for a variety of occasions, audiences, and purposes, making appropriate choices regarding style, tone, level of detail, and organization.


-List of old Florida Writes!/FCAT Writes! prompts or personally designed prompts (See Associated File)
-3” x 5” unlined index cards (1 per prompt used x total number of largest class)
-3” x 5” color-coded index cards for starter strategy (multiples of five)
-FCAT Writes! Rubric for teacher reference (See Associated File)

-Planning page, 1 per student (See Associated File)
-4” x 6” lined white index cards, 3 per student
-3” x 5” lined white index cards, 2 per student


Prior to Frenzy lesson:
1. Students should have received overview of FCAT Writes! Assessment. (See Website below for background information to share with students in Procedures, steps #1-7.)
2. Students should have received instruction and practice in expository and persuasive writing techniques.
3. Students should have understanding of essay format as assessed: focus, organization, support, conventions.
4. Students should have received instruction and practice in FADQQ starter strategies. (See Procedures, step #11)


1. Many students are test anxious. To alleviate the tension, I designed this lesson so the kids could practice with the pressure of the time constraint, but get feedback and redirection on their writing to an unknown prompt. A former athlete I taught was planning to fake illness on the day of the test. I designed this lesson to help him specifically and others generally. Even though he hated every minute of this exercise, he assured me the only reason he showed and got a 5 was due to this exercise helping him think under pressure. I hope it helps you help your kids feel more confident.

2. Help kids by using timed demand writing as journals or test essay options and apply the features assessed on the writing test: focus, organization, support, and conventions.

3. Overview the FCAT Writes! Assessment so students understand the terms of the test. (See Weblinks)

4. Share the FCAT Writes! Rubric (See Associated File) with your students and use it for writing assignments throughout the year.

5. Use writer's workshop strategies that direct students to find their voice when writing such as:
a. FADQQ (pronounced FAD-cuckoos) stands for the five ways to start an essay that might help grab the reader's attention as explained below in step #11;
b. CHUNKS which is a word that visually represents a paragraph or chunk of writing and keeps students from locking into a specific number of sentences per paragraph--you write until you have covered the information and when you are done, you have a chunk of writing;
c. VIVIDS which are those words that cause the reader to see, hear, smell, taste, feel what you are showing in your writing;
d. and other literary techniques.

6. Explain to students that during the next class day they will complete a practice drill of the FCAT Writes! Assessment.

7. Explain that when they enter the room, they are to take their seat and get a writing utensil out.

8. I have a bank of 21 old prompts (See Associated File) that I use for this lesson. You may design your own or have the kids create a bank of prompts for you to use. You may use only two per period so that it is easier for you to deal with the immediate feedback.

9. Place one prompt on each 3” x 5” unlined index card. Be sure that the prompt is written as the assessment presents them with “Writing Situation” and “Directions for Writing.”

10. Tape the prompt cards in Area One of your classroom board prompt side down.

11. Write the FADQQ identifier on the color index cards. F=fact, A= anecdote, D=description, Q=question, Q=quote. The FADQQ is the starter strategy that helps kids get going and also helps them avoid the “There are three blah blah blahs. . .” as a starter to their essays. You may make all the Fact cards green, Anecdote cards blue, etc. or you can do them in random colors so the kids can’t choose the one they like the most. It is critical during this exercise to force the kids to think on their feet. Making them deal with unknowns in a timed manner really gets them going.

12. Tape the FADQQ cards in Area Two of your classroom board face down.

13. Either already have the necessary items on their desk or have an early arriving student pass out the supplies to students as they take their seats. Each student should receive: one Planning Page (See Associated File), two 3” x 5” lined index cards and three 4” x 6” index cards.

14. Review with students the procedures they will follow to complete the day’s practice exercise. (See steps #16-24 below) Once roll is taken and questions are fielded, start the clock and watch them race to the board for their prompt.

15. The “frenzy” occurs as students rapidly try to complete each stage successfully. The teacher is usually most frenzied at the end of the day, but the students love the pace and the feeling of satisfaction they receive from meeting the timed demand assignment. NOTE: Sit in a central area of the room that encourages students to line up and wait for their approval of the step they have completed and remain silent so other writers can think.

16. When you say “start,” the students proceed to the board and select a card from Area One. They must select a card and immediately take their seat.

17. When all students are seated, they may then look at the prompt they have chosen.

18. Using their Planning Page, they must then create a plan for their essay.

19. Students present plan to teacher and if approved, they then proceed to select a card from Area Two. If not approved, they rework the plan until acceptable to teacher. NOTE: Instructor should look plan over for brevity of writing and for clear, concise trigger words from which the student can develop an essay that is focused, organized, and has opportunity for substantial support.

20. The card they select from Area Two tells them how they must start their essay (fact, anecdote, description, question, quote). This step is especially useful for students that have difficulty in creating a unique or attention grabbing beginning. Not all students need this step, but it even forces the creative ones to be more creative.

21. Using one of the 3” x 5” cards, they draft an introductory paragraph. Once finished, they present the card to instructor. If approved, they move on to the next step. If not approved, they rework the introduction until it is approved. NOTE: Instructor should look for unique opening statements that grab the reader’s attention, set up the essay in an inviting way and hint at some form of organization.

22. Using one of the 4” x 6” cards, the student drafts the first body paragraph of the essay and presents it to the instructor when finished. NOTE: Instructor should look for a clear organizational pattern that presents details and support that are focused on topic, substantial in form, interesting and appealing to the reader, delivered through varied sentence structure, and with few convention errors (none that impede comprehension).

23. Repeat step 22 until all body paragraphs are completed and approved.

24. Using their last 3” x 5” lined index card, students draft a conclusion paragraph. Once finished, they present the card to the instructor. If approved, they turn in all cards (cards should be turned in by stacking them and sitting back down quietly). If not approved, they rework conclusion until it is approved. NOTE: Instructor should look for closing statements that remind reader of the topic and supporting details without repeating thesis or exact sentences from essay.

DAY AFTER FRENZY LESSON--(usually one day before state test)
25. As students enter the room, they are full of statements and questions regarding their “frenzy” experience from the day before. I allow as much time as they need to feel comfortable with facing the assessment. We collect statements from all writers about what they did when they got stuck, what they pulled from for help, how they dealt with finding that perfect word for the next sentence and losing it in the same flash only to be left using one of those “blah” words they hate. When the students share their tips and strategies, all students make gains and have a bigger bag of tricks to take into the assessment with them on test day.


Assessment is driven by teacher approval of student compositions according to the elements assessed by FCAT Writes!--focus, organization, support, conventions. It is recommended that the FCAT Writes! Rubric drive the assessment. (See Associated File)

Web Links

Web supplement for FCAT Writes! Frenzy

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