Study Guide

Field 124: Middle Level English 
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

subarea roman numeral 5 
Pedagogical Content Knowledge

 start bold Use the information provided to complete the task that follows. end bold 

Using your knowledge of content and sound pedagogical practices in English language arts and citing evidence from the exhibits provided, write a response of approximately 300–600 words in which you:

Be sure to utilize  start bold all end bold  the exhibits in your response.

 start bold Exhibit 1 end bold 

You are planning instruction for a sixth-grade English language arts class that aligns with the following standards from the Oklahoma Academic Standards for English Language Arts.

 start bold Standard 3: Critical Reading and Writing end bold 

 start bold 6.3.R.2 end bold  Students will evaluate how the point of view and perspective affect grade-level literary and/or informational text.

 start bold 6.3.W.2 end bold  Students will compose essays and reports about topics, incorporating evidence ( start italics e.g., specific facts, examples, details end italics ) and maintaining an organized structure.

 start bold You have set the following learning goal: end bold 

Students will be able to describe how an author uses point of view to support a theme, using textual evidence to support their ideas.

 start bold You have developed the following student assignment: end bold 

Read the passage from Lois Lowry's novel The Giver and write a brief essay in which you describe how the author uses point of view to support a theme in the passage. Use evidence from the passage to support your analysis.

 start bold Exhibit 2 end bold 

Passage from The Giver, a novel by Lois Lowry

"It's the choosing that's important, isn't it?" The Giver asked him.

Jonas nodded. "My little brother—" he began, and then corrected himself. "No, that's inaccurate. He's not my brother, not really. But this newchild that my family takes care of—his name's Gabriel?"

"Yes, I know about Gabriel."

"Well, he's right at the age where he's learning so much. He grabs toys when we hold them in front of him—my father says he's learning small-muscle control. And he's really cute."

The Giver nodded.

"But now that I can see colors, at least sometimes, I was just thinking: what if we could hold up things that were bright red, or bright yellow, and he could choose? Instead of the Sameness."

"He might make wrong choices."

"Oh." Jonas was silent for a minute. "Oh, I see what you mean. It wouldn't matter for a newchild's toy. But later it does matter, doesn't it? We don't dare to let people make choices of their own."

"Not safe?" The Giver suggested.

"Definitely not safe," Jonas said with certainty. "What if they were allowed to choose their own mate? And chose wrong?"

"Or what if," he went on, almost laughing at the absurdity, "they chose their own jobs?"

"Frightening, isn't it?" The Giver said.

Jonas chuckled. "Very frightening. I can't even imagine it. We really have to protect people from wrong choices."

"It's safer."

"Yes," Jonas agreed. "Much safer."

But when the conversation turned to other things, Jonas was left, still, with a feeling of frustration that he didn't understand.

He found that he was often angry, now: irrationally angry at his groupmates, that they were satisfied with their lives which had none of the vibrance his own was taking on. And he was angry at himself, that he could not change that for them.

 start bold Exhibit 3 end bold 

Taylor, a sixth-grade student whose primary language is English, writes the first draft of an essay in response to the assignment. Taylor's first draft appears below.

How Point of View Supports Theme in  start underline The Giver end underline 

The theme of the passage is freedom of choice. In the dialogue between Jonas and The Giver, we hear two points of view about the pros and cons of individual choice. Jonas has just begun to see colors, and he wants to know why Gabriel cannot be given a choice between a red toy and a yellow toy. Jonas is trying to understand why simple pleasures and experiences, like seeing colors and making choices, are unsafe.

The Giver supports "the Sameness." The Giver's argument is that if people can make their own choices for unimportant things, they'll start making their own choices for more important things, like jobs, and they may make wrong choices. But how does The Giver know what's wrong and what's right?

Jonas has begun to question the status quo, and he doesn't have a strong argument prepared to debate The Giver. He asks questions, but he barely challenges The Giver's authority.

The narrator doesn't have a point of view in the passage. We hear what Jonas and The Giver have to say, and then we can decide for ourselves what to think. The narrator's neutral point of view supports the theme by giving readers a choice. We don't have to choose sameness.

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 

This sixth-grade assignment fulfilling Reading Standard 6.3.R.2 and Writing Standard 6.3.W.2 requires students to analyze how the literary element point of view affects a text and to use textual evidence to support their analysis. By sixth grade, students have been exposed to identifying first and third person point of view in literary texts and have had some experience determining how point of view affects a text, but have not had experience in differentiating the various third-person points of view.

After assessing the class's level of prior knowledge of point of view, I would plan organized and explicit instruction to ensure students' understanding of the literary meaning of point of view as whose eyes, feelings, and mind the reader experiences a story. I would use several paired and small-group activities to demonstrate how point of view works in real life, making the concept accessible, and then how it works in a text. Instruction would include correctly identifying first and third person point of view (the most common and basic), and, more importantly, demonstrating and practicing how that identification is made. I would use similar modeling and text-based activities to introduce differentiating between third person omniscient, objective, and limited, a more complex task. The passage from The Giver is an excellent starting point because of the contrast between the long first section, clearly in third person, perhaps even third person objective, and the last, clearly in third person limited (Jonas's).

This student's essay attempts to relate point of view to meaning but fails to apply the literary definition of point of view. In the first paragraph, the student uses "point of view" in the sense of "opinion." The third paragraph is based on the dialogue alone, and misunderstandings lead the student to a too narrow and vague view of the theme: "neutral point of view supports the theme by giving readers a choice."

To successfully address how point of view supports theme in the passage, this student must first understand the literary concept of point of view. A directed learning activity would guide the student to the shift/contrast in the passage between third person objective of the dialogue and third person limited in the narration of Jonas's reflections and feelings. I would scaffold the steps by modeling each and providing support through completion of the activity as needed.

Learning Activity

While this process requires intense attention, guided instruction and modeling will allow the student to find a more secure understanding of this particular text, as well as stronger interpretive skills that can be applied to other texts in the future.

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 potential difficulty for the students, the instructional plan, the demonstrated student weakness, and the learning activity are all appropriately identified and discussed.

The discussion demonstrates subject matter knowledge in the areas assessed by this prompt: the ability to read a literary passage for accurate content and understanding of its elements and their effects; the ability to read thoughtfully and evaluate a focused student assignment, recognizing specific strengths and/or challenges; content area knowledge as evidenced in the accurate definition of the term  start italics point of view end italics  and an understanding of providing textual evidence; and familiarity with and the ability to incorporate current pedagogical grade-appropriate practices and theory, sequenced and modeled instruction, student motivation, and specific activities related to both text and real world relevance in the English classroom.

Throughout, the response offers support, incorporating specific prompt references and details of student activities. For example, the writer identifies the sources for the assessments being made, pointing to the specific student paragraphs exhibiting the designated student difficulty. In addition, the discussion of planned instruction is sufficiently descriptive for its complexity; the fourth paragraph on the suggested student activity is detailed as to content, process, and expected outcomes.

Throughout the response, the writer's commentary clearly provides authentic rationales for making specific choices. For example, the first paragraph identifies the potential problem as one to be expected for sixth graders based on the Oklahoma Academic Standards in English language arts. Also, the last paragraph specifically explains why the learning activity described would be effective. Such ability to see connections and provide explicit rationales reveals a comprehensive understanding of the topic.

Sample Weak Response to the Constructed-Response Assignment

The student seems to have difficulty determining the overall theme of the passage. Although the student suggests that the theme is "freedom of choice," the theme is about growing up and developmentally appropriate forms of knowledge. For example, the father explains that children learn small-muscle control by grabbing toys. The majority of the passage deals with what we should know and at what age we should know certain things.

Since students need to first learn what a passage says before they can address point of view, we need to work on critical reading abilities and reading comprehension. I would plan instruction by first having a whole class discussion about appropriate ages for different types of knowledge. This will let us brainstorm. Then, I would have the class read the passage several times. The more one reads the passage the more one typically understands. Once the meaning is known, the point of view and its relation to theme becomes obvious. This is why comprehension is such an important part of planned instruction.

The student does a great job identifying point of view in the passage. The essay is quite perceptive in noting the "narrator's neutral point of view." However, the purpose of this "neutral" point of view is to emphasize Jonas's young age. He is not yet able to make a strong stance or assessment about his life because he is not mature enough. The point of view, then, directly relates to the overall theme of age-specific forms of knowledge.

A close reading would help students overcome this difficulty. In groups, students will closely read the passage and highlight key words in each paragraph. Highlighting particular words (in different colors, perhaps) will help students zero in on the words they need in order to correctly comprehend the passage. Then, they can put the meaning of the passage into their own words. Identifying key words and explaining what these words mean can help students of varying abilities better discern the passage's meaning. It would be particularly helpful to place students of different reading abilities in the same group so that stronger students can help weaker students to correctly identify the theme. This ensures that all students will participate in class discussion, which is why my learning activity would be productive.

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 analysis, description, and explanation are limited by the writer's weak understanding of the topic. The writer identifies a potential difficulty, but the stated difficulty ignores the student's appropriate suggestion of theme as "freedom of choice." The writer inadequately explains how the plan of instruction and learning activity will help the student meet the learning goal of describing an author's use of point of view to support a theme. In addition, the critical reading and writing strength is identified as the student's vague assertion that the narrator has a "neutral point of view," perhaps the weakest moment of the student's written response.

The discussion demonstrates insufficient subject matter knowledge in literary analysis as well as sound pedagogical practices in English language arts. The writer's suggested theme of The Giver as "age-appropriate knowledge" expresses an inaccurate understanding of the passage and a questionable theme, ignoring the student's own specific and quite apt suggestion of theme as the "freedom of choice." The response also reflects limited subject matter in terms of sound pedagogical practice for English language arts at a sixth-grade level. The student's identified difficulty as well as his or her identified strength are questionable in terms of accuracy and appropriateness. Further, although the plan of instruction and the learning activity may help students with basic comprehension, it is unclear how they will assist the student's understanding of point of view and theme. The writer only partially addresses current pedagogical grade-appropriate practices and theory specific to the English language arts classroom.

Although the student makes reference to prompt materials, the support is undeveloped and partial. Further elaboration and specificity is needed. In particular, the plan of instruction and the learning activity remain vague and unspecified. The connection between the pedagogical practice and the stated outcome as assisting the student's ability to identify theme and point of view needs further elaboration. When the writer does reference the student's passage, as he or she does in the discussion of the student's strength as perceptive identification of point of view, the relevance and appropriateness of this support is questionable.

The writer's partial understanding of the elements of the assignment interferes with the ability to form a sound rationale to tie information to analysis throughout. For example, the rationale needs more elaboration, and the writer makes many unsubstantiated assertions, such as, "once the meaning is known, the point of view and its relation to theme becomes obvious," or "highlighting particular words…will help students zero in on the words they need to correctly comprehend the passage." These claims express a limited argument and degree of understanding.

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.

Acknowledgments

 start bold Exhibit 2 end bold 

Excerpt from THE GIVER by Lois Lowry. Copyright by Lois Lowry. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.