Study Guide

Field 015: Reading Specialist 
Sample Constructed-Response Assignment

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Test Directions for the Constructed-Response Assignment

This section of the test consists of one constructed-response assignment. You are to prepare a written response of approximately  300 to 600  words on the assigned topic. You should use your time to plan, write, review, and edit your response to the assignment.

Read the assignment carefully before you begin to write. Think about how you will organize your response.

As a whole, your response must demonstrate an understanding of the knowledge and skills of the field. In your response to the assignment, you are expected to demonstrate the depth of your understanding of the content area through your ability to apply your knowledge and skills rather than merely to recite factual information.

Your response to the assignment will be evaluated on the basis of the following criteria:

 start bold PURPOSE: end bold  the extent to which the response achieves the purpose of the assignment
 start bold SUBJECT MATTER KNOWLEDGE: end bold  accuracy and appropriateness in the application of subject matter knowledge
 start bold SUPPORT: end bold  quality and relevance of supporting details
 start bold RATIONALE: end bold  soundness of argument and degree of understanding of the subject matter

The constructed-response assignment is intended to assess subject matter knowledge and skills, not writing ability. However, your response must be communicated clearly enough to permit valid judgment of the scoring criteria. Your response should be written for an audience of educators in this field. The final version of your response should conform to the conventions of edited American English. Your written response must be your original work, written in your own words, and not copied or paraphrased from some other work.

Be sure to write about the assigned topic. You may not use any reference materials during the test. Remember to review what you have written and make any changes you think will improve your response.

Sample Constructed-Response Assignment

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Instruction

 start bold Use the information below about a classroom teacher consulting with a reading specialist to respond to the assignment that follows. end bold 

Mr. Yamada, a third-grade teacher, meets with a reading specialist to discuss an issue regarding reading instruction in his classroom. He tells the reading specialist that he regularly has his students read aloud to him in individual conferences.

Mr. Yamada tells the reading specialist that he is concerned about his students' ability to use phonics to identify unfamiliar words in text. In addition, he says he would appreciate suggestions regarding the selection of materials for reading instruction.

Using your knowledge of reading instruction, prepare a response in which you:

Sample Strong Response to the Constructed-Response Assignment

 start bold Please note: The sample response provided below is for review purposes only and should not be used in a response on an operational exam. Use of the exact words and phrases presented in this sample response will result in a score of "U" (Unscorable) due to lack of original work. end bold 

If I were the reading specialist, I would first encourage Mr. Yamada to analyze students' oral reading and other assessment results in order to identify particular phonics patterns (e.g.,  C V V C ,  C C C V C ) or phonics elements (e.g., vowel teams, consonant blends) that are causing difficulties for students. To address these needs, Mr. Yamada should: 1) provide explicit instruction to improve students' knowledge of targeted phonics patterns and/or phonics elements, and 2) provide frequent exposure to the targeted phonics patterns/elements through a variety of reading and writing activities. Mr. Yamada's approach to providing explicit phonics instruction should be customized to meet the particular needs of individual students or the shared needs of small groups of students. By third grade, students typically have already learned how to apply basic phonics knowledge in order to decode single-syllable words that follow common phonics patterns, such as  C V C ,  C V C e , and  C V C C , but they may still be struggling with more complex patterns such as those that contain one or more consonant clusters (e.g.,  C C C V C C ,  C C V C C C ,  C C C V C C C ). If so, these students would benefit from instructional activities that promote their ability to accurately and automatically decode more advanced phonics elements or letter combinations (e.g.,  -S T R ,  -T H R ,  -S P L ,  -I G H T ,  -T C H ,  K N- ). For example, Mr. Yamada might take advantage of common phonograms or word families that include words containing the difficult phonics elements (e.g., sang, clang, and sprang; catch, thatch, and scratch; fight, bright, and knight). In this way, students learn to decode unfamiliar single-syllable words by building on their knowledge of simpler, familiar words that have different onsets but shared rimes. Work with phonograms is particularly helpful in the case of rimes that actually contain the target letter combinations (e.g.,  -I G H T ,  -A T C H ). The teacher should give the students guided practice in decoding target words in isolation as well as in connected text.

Other students in the class may have mastered common single-syllable phonics patterns but still have difficulty using phonics to decode longer words. Learning to recognize familiar, pronounceable word parts within longer words (e.g., re-mem-ber) will help students decode unfamiliar multisyllable words. Teaching them to recognize the six most common English syllable patterns will further reinforce this decoding strategy.

In addition to providing explicit instruction, Mr. Yamada should reinforce students' phonics knowledge through varied reading and writing activities that include words containing the targeted phonics patterns/elements. For example, students could work individually or in pairs to create their own word family booklets focused on target phonograms. Students could then share their booklets by displaying them and reading them aloud to one another. Another activity would be to have pairs of students who are working on the same phonics pattern compose sentences that use multiple words from the same word family (e.g., "I might make a tight right turn at the bright light tonight.").

Mr. Yamada also asks the reading specialist to recommend reading materials for reading instruction. I would respond that there are many different criteria for selecting reading materials, but a teacher should always begin by identifying the goal of instruction, and then select reading materials that will best address that goal. For example, if the goal of instruction is to promote students' word identification skills, it is important to select texts for instruction that will allow students to practice applying word identification strategies (including phonics patterns/elements already taught) and that are written at individual students' instructional reading levels. Texts at this level will challenge students but still allow them to experience progress and success in reading. The texts also should engage students' interests and activate their prior knowledge. That way, students will be motivated to become more fluent readers in order to gain meaning from the texts.

Performance Characteristics

The following characteristics guide the scoring of responses to the constructed-response assignment.

Characteristics that guide the scoring of responses
Purpose The extent to which the response achieves the purpose of the assignment
Subject Matter Knowledge Accuracy and appropriateness in the application of subject matter knowledge
Support Quality and relevance of supporting details
Rationale Soundness of argument and degree of understanding of the subject matter

Scoring Scale

Scores will be assigned to each response to the constructed-response assignment according to the following scoring scale.

Score Scale with description for each score point.
Score Point Score Point Description
4  start bold The "4" response reflects a thorough knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. end bold 
  • The purpose of the assignment is fully achieved.
  • There is a substantial, accurate, and appropriate application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence is sound; there are high-quality, relevant examples.
  • The response reflects an ably reasoned, comprehensive understanding of the topic.
3  start bold The "3" response reflects a general knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. end bold 
  • The purpose of the assignment is largely achieved.
  • There is a generally accurate and appropriate application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence generally supports the discussion; there are some relevant examples.
  • The response reflects a general understanding of the topic.
2  start bold The "2" response reflects a partial knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. end bold 
  • The purpose of the assignment is partially achieved.
  • There is a limited, possibly inaccurate or inappropriate application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence is limited; there are few relevant examples.
  • The response reflects a limited, poorly reasoned understanding of the topic.
1  start bold The "1" response reflects little or no knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. end bold 
  • The purpose of the assignment is not achieved.
  • There is little or no appropriate or accurate application of subject matter knowledge.
  • The supporting evidence, if present, is weak; there are few or no relevant examples.
  • The response reflects little or no reasoning about or understanding of the topic.
U The response is unscorable because it is illegible, not written to the assigned topic, written in a language other than English, or lacking a sufficient amount of original work to score.
B There is no response to the assignment.