Study Guide

Field 177: English as a Second Language (ESL) 
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 6 
Analysis and Application

 start bold Use the information in the exhibits to complete the assignment that follows. Your response should be approximately 300 to 600 words. end bold 

Using your knowledge of English language learners, language and literacy development, and research- and evidence-based practices and citing evidence from the exhibits provided, write a response in which you:

Be specific in your response, citing evidence from the exhibits as appropriate.

Exhibit 1: Student Information

Grade Level: 6
Name Age Home Country Primary Language
Emily 11 USA Spanish
Max 12 Russia Russian
David 11 USA Spanish
Linh 12 Vietnam Vietnamese
 start notes 

Notes from the students' sixth-grade mathematics teacher:


 start bold Emily's end bold  school records indicate that Emily's family has moved frequently and that Emily attended five different elementary schools. She attended a bilingual education program in Spanish in third grade but otherwise has been schooled in English only. She reports that she cannot read or write in Spanish, but her family speaks primarily Spanish at home. Emily is attentive in mathematics class, and she is good about asking for help after class when she does not understand the lesson.


 start bold Max's end bold  family arrived in the United States two years ago, when he was ten. He had attended school in Russia for four years, so he was placed in a fourth-grade class. He has received services for English for two years. Max's sixth-grade English language arts teacher reports that he reads and writes at about a third-grade level. In mathematics class, he can do basic operations but has difficulty with word problems. It can be hard to tell when he needs help because he is so willing to please; he smiles and nods even when he does not understand the lesson.


 start bold David end bold  was born in the United States, but his family goes back and forth between Mexico and Oklahoma on a regular basis; consequently, his school records show excessive absences. David reports that he has never learned to read or write in Spanish, although his family speaks exclusively in Spanish at home. David demonstrates solid computational skills and a good sense of spatial relationships. He is very artistic and enjoys trying to figure out word problems by drawing the various elements described in the problem, but he does not always understand key words that would help him determine what operation to use.


 start bold Linh end bold  has lived in the United states for almost three years, since early in third grade. She reports that she can still read and write in Vietnamese, although it is difficult to find new books with which to practice. She speaks exclusively Vietnamese at home. Linh's English language arts teacher reports that she is making good progress with the writing process and developing a basic essay; she likes following an organizational structure. However, she still needs a lot of support with vocabulary and reading comprehension. Linh is outgoing and has developed good conversational English. She has difficulty following lessons, but she is quick to raise her hand when she does not understand something. Linh says she likes mathematics, but she does not like word problems.

 end notes 

Exhibit 2: ACCESS Scores

The following are excerpts of data and information from the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0® English Language Proficiency Test, which was administered to the students in the spring of fifth grade (the students are now at the beginning of sixth grade).

Test
Section
Student
Emily Max David Linh
Listening expanding
(Level 4)
emerging
(Level 2)
developing
(Level 3)
developing
(Level 3)
Speaking developing
(Level 3)
emerging
(Level 2)
developing
(Level 3)
developing
(Level 3)
Reading developing
(Level 3)
emerging
(Level 2)
developing
(Level 3)
developing
(Level 3)
Writing developing
(Level 3)
emerging
(Level 2)
developing
(Level 3)
emerging
(Level 2)
Oral Language
(Listening & Speaking)
developing
(Level 3)
emerging
(Level 2)
developing
(Level 3)
developing
(Level 3)
Literacy
(Reading & Writing)
developing
(Level 3)
emerging
(Level 2)
developing
(Level 3)
emerging
(Level 2)
Comprehension
(Listening & Reading)
developing
(Level 3)
emerging
(Level 2)
developing
(Level 3)
developing
(Level 3)
Overall Score
(Listening, Speaking,
Reading & Writing)
developing
(Level 3)
emerging
(Level 2)
developing
(Level 3)
developing
(Level 3)
ELD Level Level
Number
Description of English Language
Development (ELD) Levels
Entering Level 1 Knows and uses minimal social language and minimal academic language with visual support.
Emerging Level 2 Knows and uses some social English and general academic language with visual support.
Developing Level 3 Knows and uses social English and some specific academic language with visual support.
Expanding Level 4 Knows and uses social English and some technical academic language.
Bridging Level 5 Knows and uses social and academic language working with grade-level material.
Reaching Level 6 Knows and uses social and academic language at the highest level measured by this test.

Exhibit 3: Lesson Background

Lesson Goals
Standard: WIDA English Language Development Standard 3

English language learners communicate information, ideas and concepts necessary for academic success in the content area of Mathematics.
Connection/Topic: geometry—use characteristics of the rectangular coordinate system to locate points
Topic-Related Language: coordinate plane, x-axis, y-axis, origin, ordered pairs of numbers, negative and positive numbers, plotting points
Cognitive Function: understand how to locate points on the coordinate plane
Lesson Text
(Passage from the students' sixth-grade mathematics textbook)

The coordinate plane is made up of two lines meeting at a 90-degree angle. The horizontal line is called the x-axis and the vertical line is called the y-axis. The point where the two lines meet is called the origin.

All locations on the plane are identified by ordered pairs of numbers. The first number in the pair indicates how far to move horizontally from the origin along the x-axis. If the first number is negative, move to the left of the origin, and if it is positive, move to the right. The second number indicates how far up or down to move. Negative numbers indicate movement down (below the origin), while positive numbers represent movement up.

For example, the ordered pair ( minus 5 , 3) tells you to move 5 units left of the origin along the x-axis and then 3 units up along the y-axis. The ending location is where the point for coordinates ( minus 5 , 3) should be plotted.

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 

Since this lesson focuses on WIDA Standard 3 (communicating language effectively in Mathematics), and the content-specific (tier 3) vocabulary listed in Topic-Related Language is very concrete [Lesson Goals], an appropriate oral language activity to use with this group is frontloading target vocabulary using visual support prior to reading the text. For example, for "coordinate plane," the teacher should write the phrase on the board, pronounce it clearly, have the students repeat it, and then provide a simple definition while displaying a large visual of a coordinate plane. The teacher should repeat these steps with each term.

An appropriate literacy activity for this text is to use the text's spatial organizational structure to support the students' understanding of the text's content. The teacher should guide the students in reading the text aloud, while stopping at important points to ask text-dependent questions supported by the visuals introduced in the frontloading activity. For example, after reading the first sentence, ask spatial questions such as "How do the 'x-axis' and 'y-axis' differ?" After reading the second paragraph, ask spatial questions such as, "Starting at the 'origin,' what direction is 'positive' on the 'x-axis?'—on the 'y-axis?'" Finally, when reading the third paragraph, the teacher should first demonstrate plotting the given coordinates on the visual and then have the students reread the paragraph several times, substituting other coordinates, and have them practice plotting those coordinates.

These activities would be effective in supporting the students' academic language and content development related to the goals of the lesson, as well as their understanding of the Lesson Text, because both activities provide sufficient visual and interactive scaffolding for Level 3 students. Most students in the group are Level 3 [ACCESS Scores], which means they need visual support to access grade-level academic language, and graphic or interactive support to access grade-level texts. In addition, both activities take advantage of the text's spatial organizational structure by providing the students with opportunities to use the visuals to relate key vocabulary spatially (e.g., the different orientations of the 'x-axis' and 'y-axis,' the location of 'positive' and 'negative numbers' on the 'coordinate plane'). Interactive scaffolding is especially appropriate for Emily and Linh, who are good about asking questions during lessons, while visual scaffolding takes advantage of David's "good sense of spatial relationships" [Student Information]. Finally, by providing multiple meaningful opportunities for the students to hear, read, and use the Topic-Related Language and by giving the students lots of practice plotting coordinates, the activities will help them achieve the lesson's language, content, and cognitive-function goals [Lesson Goals], while also facilitating their text comprehension.

Max is the only Level 2 student in the group [ACCESS Scores], and he typically "smiles and nods even when he does not understand the lesson" [Student Information]. These factors make achievement of the lesson goals and understanding of the lesson text more difficult for him even with the above scaffolds in place. Therefore, an appropriate differentiation strategy for Max is to provide him with his own copy of the visuals with each term labeled, and to check in with him regularly throughout the activities by having him repeat relevant vocabulary and point to the visual associated with it. For example, the teacher could ask Max to point to the 'x-axis,' or show him a number and ask if it is 'positive' or 'negative' and how he can tell. This strategy would be effective in addressing Max's needs because it provides him with additional practice with the new academic language and content, while allowing the teacher to recognize immediately if Max is having difficulty understanding something and to clarify meaning.

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 thoroughly fulfills the purpose of the assignment (refer to the instructions for the assignment) by describing one research-based oral language development instructional activity, describing one research-based literacy development instructional strategy, and explaining how the strategies would be effective in supporting the students’ academic language and content development related to the goals of the lesson and in facilitating their understanding of the lesson text. The response also describes an appropriate strategy for differentiating the oral language instructional strategy in order to accommodate Max’s lower levels of proficiency in oral language and comprehension, and explains why the strategy is effective in meeting these particular needs. The writer has clearly analyzed the provided exhibits and cites relevant evidence from all three exhibits to support the response. The writer also demonstrates a thorough understanding of the needs of the particular group of English language learners, including the specific needs of Max, the student in the group whose lower levels of proficiency in oral language and comprehension require additional accommodation. The writer uses professional language, terminology, and examples throughout the response—e.g., "content-specific (tier 3) vocabulary," "frontloading target vocabulary using visual support," "interactive scaffolding," and "visual scaffolding." The response reflects a substantial, accurate, and appropriate application of subject matter knowledge (e.g., correctly identifying the lesson text's organizational structure and how best to teach English language learners to comprehend a text that follows that structure), and demonstrates sound supporting evidence complete with high-quality, relevant examples. For instance, the writer has created a systematic plan for the group of students, with significant scaffolding in place for Max, in order to facilitate the students’ understanding of the lesson text and achievement of the lesson goals. In addition, the writer offers a thoughtful rationale for each suggested strategy (e.g., the explanation of the needs of students with Level 3 proficiency, the explanation of why a particular scaffold is appropriate for a student's given background). Overall, the response reflects a comprehensive understanding of the subject.

Sample Weak Response to the Constructed-Response Assignment

To help these ESL students understand the content in this math lesson and improve oral language development, I would first discuss the material with them to activate any background knowledge they might have on the subject in either their native language or English. I would then read the math textbook to them in English, stopping frequently to explain vocabulary and correlate the vocabulary words to words in their native language. I would also ask frequent questions to determine their level of comprehension. Once I felt sure that they understood, I would allow them to work in small groups and share with each other their understanding of the math assignment. This would allow them to speak and listen to others of their understanding of the assignment. By seeing and hearing their peers, they could see that everyone sounds different and I would reassure them that everyone can make mistakes and we can all learn from them.

One literacy development activity to use to support their academic language is a graphic organizer called a K-W-L chart. I noticed that there are a lot of difficult vocabulary words in this math lesson, such as negative and positive numbers. As a group, we would complete the K (knowledge) part of the chart. I would have them list as many things as possible that they know about the vocabulary words. Then, we would complete the W part of the chart by having the students list at least one thing that they want to learn about the subject. After the math lesson, we would meet again to discuss and complete the chart. The students will list as much as possible in the L (learned) part of the chart. I would then have them look back at what was listed on the K part of the chart and see if everything they thought they knew about the subject was really true. Then I would have them look at the W (want to learn) part of the chart and make sure all of their questions had been answered. If some have not been answered, we would then locate other resources to find the answers.

An appropriate strategy for differentiating the oral language activity to accommodate Max’s lower levels of proficiency is to pair him with a more capable peer. I would pair Max with Emily because the notes from the math teacher say that she is attentive and is good about asking for help. She also is a level 4 in listening while Max is a level 2.

Pairing Max with Emily is effective because the higher student can teach the lower student. It helps students to deal with small pieces of language at a time and not become overwhelmed. It is meaningful and relevant to both of them.

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.

This response partially achieves the purpose of the assignment (refer to the instructions for the assignment) by neglecting to respond to all tasks of the prompt. This response demonstrates an inappropriate application of subject matter knowledge. The activities described are ineffective for the ESL levels of the students described in the prompt and demonstrate a limited understanding of appropriate activities for the ESL students. The response also fails to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of the students. Supporting evidence and examples are limited within the response. Overall, the response reflects a poorly reasoned understanding of the topic.

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.