Friday, August 23, 2013

constructed response practice

Constructed Responses (what I would just call a paragraph, or an extended answer) have once again become a fashionable discussion point in literacy education, mostly because these types of responses ground student writing in a text.

With a new literacy emphasis taking place throughout SPS, constructed responses are a good way to assess students' reading ability--much better, I would say, than a multiple choice test like the one every student is submitted to three times a year during the Performance Series Test. In a constructed response, students must use evidence from a text to support their answer, which is a skill that is necessary and will become more and more important as 8th graders continue in their education.

So, for the last two days we have gone over a three step process that the students should use as they write constructed responses. We've also looked at and even used a new scoring guide for constructed responses; the students read and scored three constructed responses written by students from previous years. It's good practice before writing their own constructed responses.

Yesterday students in pairs and using the computers practiced writing their first constructed responses of the school year. Things went well, from my observations. The time was rich with conversation as students explained their thinking to one another, dug in to the text (it was all about Wilson's Creek National Battlefield), and worked together to form their best answer. The answers that I have read so far have been great, considering a new three step process and a new scoring guide. There is always room for improvement, and we'll be identifying those areas and working toward improvement throughout the year.

Today students will take their first Article of the Week quiz, and individually students will have to answer an extended answer question--my version of a constructed response. Hopefully the students have been studying their vocabulary words, and hopefully they have their article with them, because they get to use the article on the quiz. It will be interesting to see how things go.

The next two weeks will mostly be dedicated to district mandated testing--first we'll do the beginning-of-year writing assessment and then we'll take the Performance Series Reading and Language Arts tests. Students won't have any other homework other than reading for 30 minutes during this time.

Please let me know if you have questions or concerns regarding the schedule or assignments or anything. I feel like it's been a very good start to the year, and if we continue with this focus and work ethic, lots of progress will be made for each student.

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