Strategies for Writing News Reports
The news report is one of two long writing tasks on the OSSLT. It is scored in two ways: Topic Development, and Use of Conventions.
Topic Development is scored in 10-point increments up to 60 points. The rubric for Topic Development identifies three elements that are being evaluated:
- Supporting Details
Use of Conventions is scored in 10-point increments up to 40 points. The rubric for Use of Conventions give full marks for "control of conventions" and fewer than full marks depending on how much the writer's errors "distract from communication".
The 2017 OSSLT Scoring Guide is a great resource with many annotated examples of student work. In this guide, the examples which scored at a passing level were 200 words or more. Because the size of students' writing varies so much, that should be a good target for students to aim for.
Requirements for the News Report
On the test itself, students are given the following instructions:
You will have to make up the facts and information to answer some or all of the following questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?
You must relate your news report to both the headline and the picture.
The news report is one of the more challenging tasks for many students, because many students have not come into contact with enough news reports in their real lives to be familiar with the nuances of the genre. In EQAO's Planning and Preparation Guide, the following clarification is made:
Note: Students should not write an advertisement, a television or radio report, a dialogue or a report about an event that will take place in the future. They should write about an event that has occurred in the past in order to inform readers about the event.
For many students, the little exposure they have to the news is from television and radio, so doing enough preparatory reading is an essential part of their preparation for the news report. Internalizing some stock phrases and ways of framing issues from real-world news reports is essential for students who struggle with this task.
Quotations are not requested explicitly, but are present in all of the examples scoring above Code 30 in the 2017 OSSLT Scoring Guide. Unless students are coached to use quotations by a teacher or other mentor, they might not take advantage of this useful way to include "how" and "why" information.