Study Guide

Field 116: Speech/Drama/Debate 
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:

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

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

Use the information provided to complete the task that follows. Click on the tabs to view the information you will need.

Using your knowledge of content, skills, and sound pedagogical practices in speech and drama instruction, and citing evidence from the exhibits provided, write a response of 300 to 600 words in which you:

Be sure to utilize all the exhibits in your response.

Exhibit 1: Student Assignment

You are planning instruction for a middle school speech and drama class that is aligned with the following National Core Arts Standards1:

You have established the following learning goal:

You have developed the following student assignment:


Exhibit 2: Excerpt

Excerpt from "Bacon and Beans and Limousines," a speech by Will Rogers on the President's Organization on Unemployment Relief radio broadcast, October 18, 1931

Now I say, and have always claimed, that things would pick up in '32. Thirty-two, why '32? Well, because '32 is an election year, see, and the Republicans always see that everything looks good on election year, see? They give us three good years and one bad one—no, three bad ones and one good one. I like to got it wrong. That's the Democrats does the other. They give us three bad years and one good one, but the good one always comes on the year that the voting is, see? Now if they was running this year why they would be all right. But they are one year late. Everything will pick up next year and be fine.

These people that you're asked to aid, why they're not asking for charity, they are naturally asking for a job, but if you can't give 'em a job why the next best thing you can do is see that they have food and the necessities of life. You know, there's not a one of us who has anything that these people that are without it now haven't contributed to what we've got. I don't suppose there's the most unemployed or the hungriest man in America has contributed in one way to the wealth of every millionaire in America. It wasn't the working class that brought this condition on at all. It was the big boys themselves who thought that this financial drunk we were going through was going to last forever. They over-merged and over-capitalized, and over-everything else. That's the fix we're in now.

Now I think that every town and every city will raise this money. In fact, they can't afford not to. They've got the money because there's as much money in the country as there ever was. Only fewer people have it, but it's there. And I think the towns will all raise it because I've been on a good many charity affairs all over the country and I have yet to see a town or a city ever fail to raise the money when they knew the need was there, and they saw the necessity. Every one 'em will come through.

Europe don't like us and they think we're arrogant, and bad mannered, and have a million faults, but every one of 'em, well, they give us credit for being liberal.


Exhibit 3: Student Sample

Student's List of Considerations

Sample Strong Response to the Constructed-Response Assignment

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.

After analyzing the speech, a student could make the following artistic choices for performance: to value clear communication of meaning over mere entertainment; to reveal contemporary relevance over representing it as merely time-period specific; and to demonstrate how varied types of argument and uses of language can produce deep understanding, even when not typical and straightforward. To incorporate these choices, the student would complete some preliminary steps. First, the student would need to conduct credible research to achieve a basic understanding of the economic, historical, and political context of the speech and its underlying goal: to have the working class contribute to the needy. Second, the student could analyze and outline the speech to identify persuasive elements and patterns used, as well as how the main point/goal is developed through specific kinds of appeals and arguments. Third, the student could critically analyze each sentence of the speech to identify how the sometimes non-standard language, diction, syntax, and literary elements might contribute to or obscure meaning. I will discuss how to apply these choices in the following paragraphs.

In relation to the student’s list of considerations, all delivery and performance choices must be relevant to the context and meaning of the specific speech. An expanded introduction could provide the audience with a lens through which to listen to and interpret the speech excerpt. The introduction could also present necessary information about the theme, context, and language of the speech. This is especially important given that the speech was delivered in 1931. For example, the student could alert the audience that in the last line of the excerpt, use of the word "liberal" would have been widely interpreted as meaning "generous" rather than liberal in a political sense. The more audience members can identify with the context and subject, the more they will understand the speech and its purpose. Choices related to tone would enhance audience understanding of thematic elements in the speech, as well as the type and intent of Rogers' arguments (which the outlining task would have revealed). Gesture and movement should help illuminate and reinforce meaning. For example, focused use of left hand/right hand oppositional gestures would reinforce contrasts, such as those between the Republicans and the Democrats in paragraph one. Based on language analysis, exaggerated versus more human-sized arm gestures could highlight the second paragraph’s discussion of the "big boys" versus the "working class" and emphasize the repetition and hyperbole of the "over-" statements near the end of that paragraph. "You and I" gestures to the audience could embody the identification of the speaker with the audience whenever Rogers refers to "us" and "we," as in "That’s the fix we’re in now." Rather than swaying, blocking and movement could involve moving towards the audience to underscore the appeals for generosity and to convey trust in the outcome. In this presentation, the student speaker should take command of the performance space, however small, and move around in a deliberate way to project confidence.

Two assessment criteria enabled by the language analysis are vocal pacing and vocal emphasis. The student could use pauses to reveal the chunks of meaning in the discursive sentences (especially in the first paragraph, in the first three sentences of the second, and in the fourth paragraph), which will help the audience follow the potentially confusing argument. Also, pausing to highlight the appeal for funds, including why such an appeal is necessary (big boys responsible for the situation) and the "we’ll show Europe" persuasive technique will leave the audience with an understanding of what’s at stake. Similarly, speaking louder and more forcefully on the words "yet," "ever," "need," "one," and "will come through" in paragraph three of the speech will emphasize the meaningfulness and drama of the appeal.

All of these techniques would be taught in class through examples, explanation, scaffolded practice, focused-task worksheets, and feedback throughout a manageable series of increasingly complex speech and oral interpretation lessons and activities, so that students are fully prepared for what would be assessed and why.

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.

This response achieves the purpose of the assignment by clearly responding to the four tasks of the prompt. The artistic choices, the student sample of delivery and performance considerations, the additional assessment criteria, and an understanding of the speech itself are all completely identified and explained, though attention to the last task of the assignment is not as extensive.

The response demonstrates accurate subject matter knowledge in the areas assessed by this prompt. The discussion of the speech in relation to artistic choices, delivery and performance elements, and assessment and communication pedagogy is thoughtful and appropriate to the given speech and to the speech/drama/debate classroom. Subject matter understanding is especially evident in the thoughtful ideas for applying specified delivery and performance techniques to the performance of the speech.

Throughout, the response offers sound support, incorporating specific text references and consistently referring back to the stated overall goals of the speech performance (especially "to value clear communication of meaning, relevance, and varied use of language over entertainment"). For example, the writer follows the sequencing of the general desired artistic effect of the speech performance, through the specific kinds of preparation needed to enable that effect, to the application of specific, precisely relevant techniques to achieve that effect. However, the discussion of assessment and communication could have been more specific and informative.

Throughout the response, the writer's commentary clearly provides authentic rationales for making specific artistic and performance choices. For example, the potential problems with clarity that the speech exhibits are the basis for valuing communication of meaning over simply being entertaining, and then that reasoning is consistently referenced as the explanation of why specific performance choices were made. Such ability to see connections and provide explicit rationales reveals a comprehensive understanding of the topic, even though the assessment and student-communication areas are less than thorough.

Sample Weak Response to the Constructed-Response Assignment

The student could include the following artistic choices into their reading of Will Rogers' 1931 radio speech, "Bacon, Beans, and Limousines":

First the student has to understand the speech, because it is confusing in places; the speaker is trying to be funny but it's not easy to tell what's a joke. He ends by saying Europe hates America but they give us credit for being liberal which doesn't seem to fit with anything else in the speech. The artistic choice would be that the student writes notes about the speech in his or her own words in order to understand and interpret the speech.

Then the student has to decide how to give an impression of Will Rogers when giving the speech. The artistic choice would be to look at film clips on YouTube of Will Rogers making other speeches to see what he looked like and sounded like when he was speaking.

Another artistic choice would be to decide how fast to say the speech. The student could go a little faster during the confusing part, but then slow down and be clear when it's about giving money because Rogers seems to believe in this part particularly and this is the point of the speech. Also, varying speech rate is more interesting to the listeners.

The student's list of considerations looks very appropriate because a brief introduction would help the audience understand what the speech was going to be about and let them know that it was from almost 100 years ago. The student could include a little bit about what was happening in history at that time which the student probably does not already know. Maybe even ask pre-speech questions to get the audience involved. Folksy conversation is a good style because he was a comedian and it would make the humorous and confusing parts of the speech more entertaining. Raising and lowering volume is good because audiences get bored if there's no variety. Spare gestures is a good idea because too many gestures can be very distracting, especially when the subject of a speech is already complicated. Also, too many gestures can make you appear to be nervous. But the student needs to make appropriate eye contact while reading/interpreting to make sure the audience is listening and understanding. Moving around the performance space or even out into the audience will keep the audience alert and physically involved and will also make the student seem more comfortable. However, swaying is never a good idea.

Two other assessment criteria the student could add are enunciation and emphasis. The student would have to be very sure to enunciate the speech clearly because, if not, the speech would be even harder to understand than it already is. Emphasis is important because the student could emphasize the important parts and it would make the sound of the speech more varied.

To apply these criteria, the student could record themselves or practice in front of classmates and ask if everyone could understand the words and then ask if the point of the speech was clear. As the teacher, I would communicate these and other criteria to the student in writing so there is no confusion about what's expected and required for a successful performance.

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 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 purpose of the assignment is only partially achieved. All the tasks are attempted, but description and explanation throughout are limited by the writer’s superficial understanding of the topic. For example, the student’s list of considerations and the additional assessment criteria are referred to but inadequately explained in relation to the specific speech.

The discussion demonstrates insufficient subject matter knowledge in the areas assessed by this prompt. Understanding of the context and meaning of the given speech is limited, as indicated by frequent references to how confusing the speech is without suggesting artistic choices or techniques that could be used to solve that problem. Attempts to identify and explain delivery and performance considerations are superficially related to the general area of speech but not to the specific area of reading/oral interpretation. Finally, the response misinterprets the teacher’s task of communicating assessment standards to students and demonstrates inadequate familiarity with pedagogical processes.

While the response refers to specific prompt materials (support), after a brief discussion of the background of the actual speech and the speaker, most of the ideas—such as pacing, movement, volume, and gesture—are inadequately defined and not shown as applicable or justified as relevant to the speech itself but are general notions of what to do in any speech. In addition, assertions such as the necessity of varying speech rate and emphasis are left unsupported, and the sentence, "I would communicate these criteria to the student in writing," is vague.

The writer’s partial understanding of both the speech and the elements of delivery and performance specific to this type of speech limits the attempts to form a rationale.

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 The accuracy and appropriateness in the application of subject matter knowledge
Support The quality and relevance of supporting details
Rationale The 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.


1National Core Arts Standards © 2015 National Coalition for Core Arts Standards. Rights administered by State Education Agency Directors of Arts Education (SEADAE). All rights reserved.