Study Guide

Field 150: 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 

Carey is a student in a second-grade class. The teacher is assessing Carey's reading comprehension by reading a poem aloud to him and then having him answer questions about the excerpt. Shown below is an excerpt from the poem.

"Pray, Mr. Frog, will you give us a song?
Let the subject be something that's not very long."
"Indeed, Mrs. Mouse," replied the frog,
"I caught a bad cold, last night, in the fog."
"Since you have caught cold, Mr. Frog," Mousey said,
"I'll sing you a song that I have just made."
As they were in glee, and making a din,
A cat and her kittens came tumbling in.
The cat she seized the rat by the crown,
The kittens they pulled the little mouse down.
This put Mr. Frog in a terrible fright;
He took up his hat, and he wished them good-night.

After the read aloud the teacher asks Carey some questions. Shown below is a transcript of their conversation.

Teacher:     What happens at the beginning of the story?

Carey:     The frog can't sing.

Teacher:     Why can't the frog sing?

Carey:     He doesn't want to.

Teacher:     How does the cold affect Mr. Frog?

Carey:     It makes the mouse sing instead.

Teacher:     What happens next in the story?

Carey:     The mouse decides to invite the cat over.

Teacher:     What happens when the cat and her kittens arrive?

Carey:     They play together, but it's rough playing.

Teacher:     What happens to the rat when the cat and her kittens arrive?

Carey:     The cat grabs the rat's head.

Teacher:     What did the kittens do to the little mouse?

Carey:     They pull her down. They are playing rough.

Teacher:     How does the story end?

Carey:     The frog leaves to sing somewhere else.

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 Carey demonstrates is a lack of understanding of the language, syntax, and structure of poems. This causes Carey to misinterpret the actions and intentions of the characters in the poem. For example, Carey understood that Mr. Frog couldn't sing, but not because he didn't want to. Mr. Frog had said, "I caught a bad cold last night, in the fog," implying that the cold had affected his voice. Another example of Carey's unfamiliarity with the language of the poem is demonstrated at the end, when Mr. Frog leaves. Carey said that he left to sing somewhere else, but in fact he left because he was frightened.

My first instructional strategy would be to explicitly teach any new or unfamiliar vocabulary or phrases to Carey. Although Carey correctly understood that the word "crown" was used to describe a head, he may not have been familiar with the meaning of words like "pray," "indeed," "glee," and "din," or the phrases "putting someone into a fright" and "taking up one's hat." To help Carey comprehend these words, I would write them on the board and read them aloud. I would then place the unfamiliar words and phrases into a context that Carey would understand. For example, I would explain that long ago, when someone had a request or wanted a favor, they might start their question with the word "pray." I would then point to a pencil and ask, "Pray Carey, would you please hand me that pencil?" Then, I'd ask Carey to come up with a request for me using the word "pray" to begin his request. I would repeat these instructional steps until Carey had a better understanding of all the unfamiliar words and phrases and how they are used in the poem.

By understanding the meaning of the unfamiliar words and phrases in the poem, Carey will be able to focus on the actions and motivations of the characters and the overall meaning of the poem itself. Carey likely had little to no previous exposure to words or phrases such as those used within the poem, so using context clues to help define them wouldn't have worked because of the poem's unique structure and abundance of new vocabulary. Explicit teaching with direct instruction of the words and phrases is therefore necessary for Carey's comprehension of the poem.

My second instructional activity would be to explain and examine the structure of the poem while also asking comprehension questions. First, I would point out the AA/BB rhyming scheme of the poem and explain how poets often craft their words to create a rhythm or rhyme. Next, I would read the poem out loud so Carey could hear the cadence and rhyme pattern of the poem through accurate modeling. I would then ask Carey to read the poem a second time keeping in mind the rhyme pattern that was just modeled. I would then prompt Carey to read the poem a third time but ask him to pause reading at the end of each line so I could ask probing questions to support his reading comprehension. For example, Carey answered that Mr. Frog didn't want to sing in response to a question about why he couldn't. After line four is read I would ask Carey, "Have you ever had a bad cold and it hurt to talk or made your voice hoarse and weak? If Mr. Frog had a bad cold do you think he would have been able to sing?" I would continue to ask probing questions throughout the remainder of Carey's second reread of the poem to elicit additional understanding. Additionally, I would rephrase complicated lines such as "as they were in glee, and making a din," by explaining that the characters were happy and making a lot of noise.

Asking Carey to pause after reading each line on his second reread of the poem will allow him to break the poem into meaningful phrases rather than reading it as a whole and losing comprehension. Asking him probing questions throughout the poem, and rephrasing lines of the poem into wording he understands, will help him to grasp what is really happening.

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 Carey's reading comprehension need (i.e., lack of understanding of the language, syntax, and structure of poems), describing two appropriate and effective strategies for addressing Carey's need (i.e., explicitly teaching vocabulary and questioning), and explaining how these strategies can be expected to enhance Carey's comprehension. The writer begins by stating a clear comprehension need demonstrated by Carey's responses about the reading. Additionally, the writer demonstrates subject matter knowledge by accurately identifying and interpreting the weaknesses in Carey's reading performance (as indicated in the passage and partial transcript), by explicitly noting that "Carey understood that Mr. Frog couldn't sing, but not because he didn't want to," and that "Carey said that he left to sing somewhere else, but in fact he left because he was frightened." The writer then goes on to provide two developmentally appropriate instructional strategies to address Carey's needs. The writer supports the instructional strategy suggestions with accurate explanations, specific and relevant examples (e.g., providing specific examples of how the teacher would explicitly teach the new vocabulary), and a detailed rationale explaining the support that the strategies will provide to effectively address Carey's reading comprehension needs. Finally, the writer demonstrates a clear understanding of reading pedagogy related to comprehension, including the ability to correctly interpret an assessment and plan effective and explicit instruction.

Sample Weak Response to the Constructed-Response Assignment

Carey doesn't understand the poem, which can be seen in his incorrect responses to the teacher's questions. Carey said that the frog made the mouse sing, and the mouse invited the cat over, two things that never actually happened.

My first instructional activity would be to have Carey fill out a graphic organizer. Carey could write that the frog couldn't sing so the mouse sang, the cat and kittens attacked the rat and mouse, and that the frog was scared and left. The graphic organizer would be effective because it would help Carey to visualize the events that really happened in the poem.

My second strategy would be to place Carey with a strong reading partner. They could take turns reading the poem out loud and asking each other different comprehension questions. Rereading the poem and answering questions with a partner will help Carey to better understand the poem.

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, two inappropriate strategies are suggested, and those strategies are not sufficiently supported with examples or explanations as to how they will address Carey's needs. The writer begins by stating "Carey doesn't understand the poem, which can be seen in his incorrect responses to the teacher's questions." This is not a clearly stated comprehension need. 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, if anything, to improve Carey'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 Carey's reading comprehension. The writer explains that both strategies would be effective because they would help Carey to "visualize the events that really happened in the poem," and "help Carey to better understand the poem." The writer, therefore, was unable to correctly interpret an assessment and plan effective instruction, demonstrating a lack of knowledge about current reading pedagogy and 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.