7th Grade STAAR Writing Explaining Expository using my Palm, Fingers, and TOES

7th Grade STAAR Writing Explaining Expository using my Palm, Fingers, and TOES
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This plan is probably one of the easiest to follow that I have made in my 14 years as a writing consultant and teacher!
(Permission to make class copies with each purpose)

The palm represents: Purpose, Prompt, and Plan for pre-writing activities
Then your students have to decide what their WOW the reader hook will be that will go with their Controlling Idea Statement in the introduction.

The word transition is written underneath the palm to remind your students to include a meaningful phrase or sentence that moves the essay from the introduction to the body.

The thumb stands for: Why? What is the reason you chose that idea? This finger starts the body of the essay. I don't recommend telling your students to write their reasons as a preview statement in the introduction since this practice usually ends up causing repetition. (Preview statements are a formulaic way to structure the essay that takes away some of the thoughtfulness and creativity when it comes to transitioning to the body.)

The pointer finger is for your first point or example. What example can you give to support your reason? For secondary students, the following examples can be used to explain reasons: real life personal examples/anecdotes, hypothetical examples that can and do happen, current event examples/situations using the news media, internet, songs, videos, books, shows, movies, etc, or historical examples using people or events from the past.

The middle finger is where most students fall short in expository. They forget that the key to the body is explaining your examples or reasons. They can use what I call I.F. details (Information and Facts) such as Why, What, Who, When, Where, Which, & How to add details/sentences for each example. For STAAR this section is to help with the development portion of the rubric. Your kids are not supposed just make lists of reasons or examples in the body. They must spend a paragraph EXPLAINING each reason. There is no magic number of sentences needed for development, but the longer the student can explain each reason/example specifically, the better the grade will be!


The ring finger represents choosing the words carefully, which is where the high vocabulary and voice will come into play. When your strongest students end up with threes from each grader instead of fours on STAAR, it is usually because the essay is missing the aspects of this finger, how to "engage" the reader and keep them that way. You may also want to teach your students to memorize the TOES acronym at the bottom of the sheet that will give your kids the opportunity to add unique, original, & thoughtful details as they write.

The word transition is written between the ring finger and the pinky to remind your students to include a transitional phrase or sentence to move in a meaningful way from the body to the conclusion.

The last finger is the pinky for the ending or conclusion. This section is what I call the leftovers section if all your students do is repeat or restate everything they have written in the body or introduction. There is nothing creative or unique in asking students to rewrite things they have already written. Try to get them to write dessert for their conclusions, that give an extension and/or reflection about the topic, idea, examples, and/or the way they were explained. As a reader of an expository essay, you would want to find out how life is different, better, or worse based on whatever was written about in the paper.

All that remains to be done is taking the essay to the ER Editing and Revising Emergency Room to make changes and improvements to the essay before turning it in to the teacher!
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