Do your students have a hard time writing complete sentences? Do they always ask if they need to write a whole sentence and then groan? I was having this problem over the summer with the now 4th grader that I tutor. She had problems with it during the school year and her teacher mentioned it to me. Not only was she struggling to write complete sentences but she was misspelling words that were in the question. I knew I needed to do something to help her with this sometimes tedious but important skill.
When I taught fourth grade, we used to tell the students they had to use UTQTATQ. It stood for Use The Question To Answer The Question. What? What on earth does that mean? Well not much if you don’t explain it to the students and show them what you expect. I wrote out the phrase for the little girl I tutor and showed her an example. If the question says “What is the most important sentence in this paragraph?” then you use the exact words from the question to start your answer. “The most important sentence in this paragraph is _______.” Still sort of tricky. So what did we do?? PRACTICE!
I made a bunch of questions to practice. Each page has a different topic like food, drinks, holidays, summer, winter, etc. The questions on each page ask an opinion question so there really is no right or wrong answer. I thought this was important because I wanted her to focus on learning the format and how to take words out of the question for the answer. I didn’t want her to worry what the “right” answer was for each question. With each response we practiced going back to double check that every word in her answer was copied correctly from the question.
We started our summer tutoring with a different question page for 4 or 5 weeks. Even with this practice just once a week, I noticed a big difference in her written responses on the other reading assignments we would work on. First of all, she no longer asked if it needed to be a complete sentence. She just did it. Secondly, she was spelling more words correctly and taking time to go back and check her work.
Now it wasn’t a miracle cure. We still have weeks where she is working on her homework and starts an answer “It was…” and I say “What was?” And then she looks at me exasperated like ‘lady, did you not just hear the story I read to you?’ So we continue to practice but I think it helps because I can just tell her UTQTATQ and she knows what I mean and expect from her.
I put the writing in complete sentences files I created for her in my TpT store. It comes with 20 different pages/topics. Each page includes 5 questions and space for answers. It also includes an anchor chart/poster that you can hang up to help remind students of what UTQTATQ is and what a good and bad example would look like. If you are interested, you can check it out HERE.