Study Guide

Field 050: Elementary Education Subtest 1 
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 300–600 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

subarea roman numeral 1 
Reading

 start bold Use the information below to complete the exercise that follows. end bold 

A fourth-grade teacher is assessing Emily's reading comprehension by having her silently read a narrative passage and then answer some questions about the text. Printed below is an excerpt from the story.


Won't Mamma be surprised! Allie smiled to herself as she walked lazily along holding the bouquet of wildflowers she had gathered down by the creek. She imagined the table as Mamma would see it this evening. Mamma would be tired after traveling in the wagon all day. She would feel dusty and parched. Even so, she would be thinking about preparing dinner for everyone. And then she'd open the door and smell the meal Allie had cooked. She would see the table laid with her fine linen tablecloth, freshly washed by Allie and bleached in the sun. The tablecloth would surely be dry by now, Allie thought. After she put the flowers in Mamma's favorite blue pitcher, she would bring it in from the line, being careful to keep it from touching the dusty red ground. Then she would set the table.

Allie felt a gust of wind at her back. The cool air raised goosebumps on her arms. She looked up at the sky still wrapped in her thoughts, and glanced absently over her shoulder. That was when she finally noticed. The weather was turning. A bank of heavy clouds was sidling in from the west, and already a great dark shadow was swallowing up the meadow she'd just left behind. A wet drop blew against her forehead, then another. And she was still nearly a half mile from home!

Allie hiked up her skirts and began to run, red dust billowing around her ankles and a vision of a white cloth splattered with red flashing before her eyes.


After Emily's silent reading, the teacher asks some questions. Printed below is a partial transcript of their conversation.

Teacher: What happens in this story?
Emily: Well. Mamma comes home. And everyone ate dinner already. But Allie isn't home yet. She went to get flowers as a surprise and she didn't know it was so late.
Teacher: Why does Allie think Mamma will be surprised?
Emily: Because Allie picked her flowers and she is going to put them in a vase for her.
Teacher: Allie is walking lazily at the beginning. Why does she decide to run home?
Emily: I think she's worried about being late. She didn't realize it was already night.
Teacher: (pointing to the second paragraph above) Remember when we talked about personification in class? Where does the author use personification in this paragraph?
Emily: Well. She's all  start italics wrapped up end italics  in her thoughts. That's one. And she glances  start italics absently. end italics 
Teacher: What is Allie thinking about when she is running?
Emily: (reviewing the text) She's running and there's dust all around and her skirt is flashing back and forth in front of her.

Using your knowledge of reading comprehension, write 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 

One reading comprehension need Emily demonstrates is a lack of inferential comprehension skills. Emily does not correctly interpret the clues in the passage, which makes it difficult for her to make accurate inferences about the text.

An example of Emily's difficulty is that she doesn't recognize that Allie is only imagining what will happen that evening. This leads her to make the incorrect inferences that Mamma was already at home, everyone had already eaten, and that Allie was not at home with everyone else because she was out picking flowers. Emily also fails to recognize the clues about the impending storm, which leads her to believe that Allie has decided to run home because she is worried about being late. When the teacher asks Emily what Allie is thinking about when she is running, she fails to answer the question. She only replies that there is dust all around and that her skirt is flashing back and forth in front of her.

The first instructional strategy I would use to improve Emily's comprehension would be to help her look for clues in the text that help distinguish between present events and those that may happen in the future. Using a photocopy of the text, I'd first help her identify and underline all the verbs that are used without auxiliaries (e.g. smiled, walked, imagined, felt, looked). I'd explain that those verbs were talking about events that were currently happening. Then I'd have her double underline all the constructions that use the helping verb "would" (e.g. would see, would be tired, would feel, would be thinking). I'd point out that in this text this construction is used to imagine events that might happen later that evening.

The second instructional strategy I would use with Emily would be to help her use other clues in the story through a think-aloud. I would start to read the paragraph about the impending storm aloud to Emily, asking myself questions as I read. For example, when I read the sentence "The weather was turning," I would ask, "The weather was turning? What could this sentence mean?" and read on. Then when I read about the heavy clouds and the wet drops I can say, “Heavy clouds and wet drops must mean that it's starting to rain. What is going to happen to Allie's clean, dry tablecloth?" I would then ask Emily to read to me so that we could find out together.

These activities would be effective in promoting Emily's reading comprehension because she has to be able to make inferences in order to comprehend things the author is implying, but not directly stating. These activities provide her with two strategies (i.e. analyzing verb clues, self-questioning) that she can use in the future. Analyzing verb clues will help Emily determine when events are occurring, and self-questioning will allow Emily to actively engage with the text and learn to make sense of what she is reading.

Rationale for the Sample Strong Response

Please note that the response is evaluated based upon the four performance characteristics of Purpose, Subject Matter Knowledge, Support, and Rationale. Please also note how the score point descriptions are based upon how the examinee attends to the performance characteristics. You should be very familiar with the CEOE performance characteristics and score scale and refer to them when reviewing this rationale.

The response fulfills the purpose of the assignment (refer to the instructions for the assignment) by identifying and providing evidence of Emily's reading comprehension need (i.e., inferential comprehension), describing two appropriate and effective strategies for addressing Emily's need (i.e., analyzing verb clues and self-questioning), and explaining how these strategies can be expected to enhance Emily's comprehension. Note how the writer, in the very first sentence states very clearly a comprehension need that is demonstrated by Emily's responses to the teacher about the reading. Additionally, the writer demonstrates subject matter knowledge by accurately identifying and interpreting the weaknesses in Emily's reading performance (as indicated in the passage and partial transcript), by explicitly noting in her response that Emily "doesn't recognize that Allie is only imagining what will happen that evening," and that "Emily also fails to recognize the clues about the impending storm." Then the writer goes on to provide two instructional strategies that are appropriate to Emily's needs and developmental level, which will improve her skills in reading comprehension. The writer supports the response with accurate explanations, specific and relevant examples (e.g., providing questions the teacher would model asking), and a detailed rationale explaining the benefits of each of the two strategies described and how they will be effective in addressing Emily's reading comprehension needs. Finally, the writer demonstrates a clear understanding of reading pedagogy related to comprehension, which includes the ability to correctly interpret an assessment and plan effective instruction involving explicit and systematic delivery.

Sample Weak Response to the Constructed-Response Assignment

Emily clearly does not understand the overall passage she is reading, as shown by the many minor errors in her recounting of the tale. Emily says it is late, that it is night, but the character would not be gathering flowers from the meadow at night, but in the day. The character, Allie, is only imagining night time and what Mamma will think when she comes home. Also the student does not recognize that the tablecloth is an important detail, and that is why she does not remember it when it starts to rain and Allie is thinking about the rain and dust staining the cloth. The student seems like she is not really thinking about what she is reading, she is not engaged.

The strategies I would use to address this need would be geared to building motivation. I think motivation is very important; otherwise readers may not make connections to what they are reading. The student may just be word calling and not really thinking about what she is reading because she isn't really invested in it. I would have the student ask herself questions while she was reading. I might start by asking an overall question about a passage that the student would then have to answer after reading, maybe in writing or it could be in a discussion, such as in a literature circle. A student in the fourth grade would benefit from a student-centered activity, such as a literature circle. So I would teach her to use questions and also plan literature-circle activities for this student.

The strategies would be effective in motivating the student for several reasons. Questions would allow the student to have a purpose for reading. This is important and would motivate the student to find the answers. Literature circles are motivating because they allow you to model reading strategies that good readers typically use and then you can gradually transfer responsibility to the students, making them more independent and providing necessary feedback as needed. These strategies should motivate Emily to be more engaged, so she would notice and think about and then recall important details of passages she reads independently.

Rationale for the Sample Weak Response

Please note that the response is evaluated based upon the four performance characteristics of Purpose, Subject Matter Knowledge, Support, and Rationale. Please also note how the score point descriptions are based upon how the writer attends to each of the performance characteristics. You should be very familiar with the CEOE performance characteristics and score scale and refer to them when reviewing this rationale.

The purpose of this assignment is only partially achieved. Although the writer attempts to address all four bullets (refer to the instructions for the assignment), a specific comprehension need is not clearly identified. The writer says at the outset that "Emily clearly does not understand the overall passage." This is not a clearly stated comprehension need. The writer makes the assumption that the reason Emily does not understand the passage is that she is not engaged in the reading. This assertion is poorly reasoned and is not supported by the text. The lack of a specific comprehension need reflects limited subject matter knowledge, which leads the writer to describe two inappropriate strategies that will do little to improve Emily's reading comprehension. The writer offers a limited description of the strategies, and provides only a few relevant examples, which do not leave the reader with a clear understanding of just how the writer plans to improve Emily's reading comprehension. The writer explains that both strategies would be effective because they would "motivate" Emily. Although motivation may have a positive effect on reading comprehension, the writer fails to make this connection, demonstrating a lack of knowledge of current reading pedagogy and understanding of best practices.

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.