Study Guide Skip to main content

Study Guide

Field 003: English Language Arts

Sample Constructed-Response Item

Competency 0009
Pedagogical Content Knowledge

Use the information below to complete the exercise that follows.

You are planning instruction for an eleventh-grade English language arts class that aligns with the following standard from the New York State P–12 Common Core Learning Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy (NYCCLS).

NYCCLS RI.11–12.9 Analyze seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century foundational U.S. documents of historical and literary significance (including The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address) for their themes, purposes, and rhetorical features.

You are planning to teach a lesson based on Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address below:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Using your pedagogical content knowledge of English language arts, write a response of approximately 400–600 words in which you:

Sample Strong Response to the Constructed-Response Assignment

For this lesson, an appropriate learning goal would be the following: Students will gain a deeper understanding of Abraham Lincoln's address at Gettysburg by analyzing the effect of rhetorical features found in the speech.

To achieve this learning goal, students would first need to understand the literal meaning of the speech. Because some language is figurative (e.g., "conceived in Liberty"), and some words may be unfamiliar (e.g., "consecrate"), I would work through the literal meaning with students before analyzing the rhetorical features. To assess students' readiness for the learning goal, I would have them paraphrase the speech. The results of this assessment would help guide future class discussions.

One instructional strategy I would use to connect students' literal understanding of the speech to new knowledge about rhetorical features would be first to introduce and define two specific features, repetition and antithesis, and illustrate the definitions using examples from familiar texts. One example might be John F. Kennedy's statement "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

Following this activity, students would reread the speech independently and underline examples of repetition and antithesis. Students would present these examples to the class and, with my help, discuss their effects. For example, students might discuss how repetition of the phrase "we cannot" in the third paragraph emphasizes the humility felt by the living when confronted with the sacrifices made by the dead, or how the antithesis of "remember/forget" elevates the actions of the soldiers who died at Gettysburg above the words spoken in praise of those actions.

The rationale for this strategy is that the teacher-given definitions and examples provide students with clear direction and expectations for their task. Immediately conducting their own search for examples in the speech gives students the opportunity to apply their new knowledge. Following this activity with a teacher-guided class discussion promotes sharing of varied perspectives and subsequent understanding of the effects of the rhetorical features.

One potential challenge associated with analyzing this speech is the need for a solid understanding of U.S. history. A student would need to know about the Declaration of Independence, which is alluded to in the first line, the significance of the Civil War, Lincoln's role, and the events at Gettysburg. Although many students would have that knowledge, many might not. A strategy to address this challenge would be to ensure that students have the historical information they need before attempting the analysis. At the beginning of the lesson, when students are discussing the literal meaning of the speech, I would use careful questioning to elicit specific historical information. This strategy would provide students with the information they need to do a thorough analysis, which would promote deeper understanding of the speech.

A beneficial instructional modification for all students would be the use of a three-column graphic organizer, with one column for each of the two rhetorical features and a third column for notes. The organizer would include an example of each rhetorical feature. Students would fill in the first two columns with examples of repetition and antithesis from the speech and make notes about the effects in the third column. During class discussions, students could refer to their graphic organizers.

One way to assess and promote students' learning and growth related to the learning goal would be to have each student write an imaginative diary entry from the point of view of an individual who was present when President Lincoln delivered the address at Gettysburg. In the diary, students would comment specifically on Lincoln's use of repetition and antithesis.

Performance Characteristics for Constructed-Response Item

The following characteristics guide the scoring of responses to the constructed-response assignment.

Completeness The degree to which the response addresses all parts of the assignment
Accuracy The degree to which the response demonstrates the relevant knowledge and skills accurately and effectively
Depth of Support The degree to which the response provides appropriate examples and details that demonstrate sound reasoning

Score Scale for Constructed-Response Item

A score will be assigned to the response to the constructed-response item according to the following score scale.

Score Point Score Point Description
4 The "4" response reflects a thorough command of the relevant knowledge and skills:
  • The response thoroughly addresses all parts of the assignment.
  • The response demonstrates the relevant knowledge and skills with thorough accuracy and effectiveness.
  • The response is well supported by relevant examples and details and thoroughly demonstrates sound reasoning.
3 The "3" response reflects a general command of the relevant knowledge and skills:
  • The response generally addresses all parts of the assignment.
  • The response demonstrates the relevant knowledge and skills with general accuracy and effectiveness.
  • The response is generally supported by some examples and/or details and generally demonstrates sound reasoning.
2 The "2" response reflects a partial command of the relevant knowledge and skills:
  • The response addresses all parts of the assignment, but most only partially; or some parts are not addressed at all.
  • The response demonstrates the relevant knowledge and skills with partial accuracy and effectiveness.
  • The response is partially supported by some examples and/or details or demonstrates flawed reasoning.
1 The "1" response reflects little or no command of the relevant knowledge and skills:
  • The response minimally addresses the assignment.
  • The response demonstrates the relevant knowledge and skills with minimum accuracy and effectiveness.
  • The response is minimally supported or demonstrates significantly flawed reasoning.
UThe response is unscorable because it is unrelated to the assigned topic or off task, unreadable, written in a language other than English or contains an insufficient amount of original work to score.
BNo response.