Hi, Marianne! I have two essays on here that I geared toward on-level students. One is Persuasive Essay Sample #3, Introductory. All of our 9th grade teachers used this one, and it is a simpler topic with lower-level vocabulary. The other one is Sample Literary, and it is a very simple story that all of our teachers used successfully. I believe our on-level teachers used it as an introduction to literary...and had the students read it together--then plot it on the plot diagram (prior to filling-out their own plot diagrams for their own pieces).
There is also a teacher on my campus who teaches our lowest performers. She takes my essays and re-scribes them in her own handwriting, replacing the advanced vocabulary words with lower-level synonyms. She even used one of them as an exercise for the kids in which they took my essay as it was and highlighted any words they did not know. After looking up the words, they replaced them with familiar synonyms and re-copied the essay. Not only was this a good vocabulary exercise, but it still gave them experience with the organization of a 26-liner!
I haven't had much success finding other materials for the writing portions (which is what drove me to create my own). However, I think the single most impactful thing I did in the classroom was to transition to using Flash Fiction at every available opportunity. As teachers who love literature, we are drawn to teaching longer pieces (novels...even "short" stories)--but none of those genres are represented on the tests. By using Flash Fiction (and even non-fiction news articles,) the kids get accustomed to bite-size literature.
Hope there is something in there that helps! Until Texas gets over its obsession with standardized testing, we've all got to help each other! :D
October 6, 2012