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Study Guide

Field 115: Social Studies

Sample Constructed-Response Item

Competency 0007
Pedagogical Content Knowledge

Use the information below to complete the exercise that follows.

You are planning instruction for an eleventh-grade United States History and Government class. The unit you are planning aligns with the following Key Idea, Standards, and Themes from the New York State Grades 9–12 Social Studies Framework.

Key Idea:

11.3    Expansion, Nationalism, and Sectionalism (1800–1865): As the nation expanded, growing sectional tensions, especially over slavery, resulted in political and constitutional crises that culminated in the Civil War.

11.3b    Different perspectives concerning constitutional, political, economic, and social issues contributed to the growth of sectionalism.


1:    History of the United States and New York

Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of major ideas, eras, themes, developments, and turning points in the history of the United States and New York.

3:    Geography

Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of the geography of the interdependent world in which we live—local, national, and global—including the distribution of people, places, and environments over Earth's surface.

5:    Civics, Citizenship, and Government

Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of the necessity for establishing governments; the governmental systems of the United States and other nations; the United States Constitution; the basic civic values of American constitutional democracy; and the roles, rights, and responsibilities of citizenship, including avenues of participation.


3.    Time, Continuity, and Change

4.    Geography, Humans, and the Environment

6.    Power, Authority, and Governance

9.    Science, Technology, and Innovation

You are preparing to teach a lesson using the two primary sources that follow.

Using your pedagogical and content knowledge of social studies, write a response of approximately 400–600 words in which you:

Source 1

John L. O'Sullivan
from "The Great Nation of Futurity"
The United States Democratic Review, November 1839

America is destined for better deeds. It is our unparalleled glory that we have no reminiscences of battle fields, but in defense of humanity, of the oppressed of all nations, of the rights of conscience, the rights of personal enfranchisement. Our annals describe no scenes of horrid carnage, where men were led on by hundreds of thousands to slay one another, dupes and victims to emperors, kings, nobles, demons in the human form called heroes. We have had patriots to defend our homes, our liberties, but no aspirants to crowns or thrones; nor have the American people ever suffered themselves to be led on by wicked ambition to depopulate the land, to spread desolation far and wide, that a human being might be placed on a seat of supremacy.

We have no interest in the scenes of antiquity, only as lessons of avoidance of nearly all their examples. The expansive future is our arena, and for our history. We are entering on its untrodden space, with the truths of God in our minds, beneficent objects in our hearts, and with a clear conscience unsullied by the past. We are the nation of human progress, and who will, what can, set limits to our onward march? Providence is with us, and no earthly power can. We point to the everlasting truth on the first page of our national declaration, and we proclaim to the millions of other lands, that "the gates of hell"—the powers of aristocracy and monarchy—"shall not prevail against it."

The far-reaching, the boundless future will be the era of American greatness. In its magnificent domain of space and time, the nation of many nations is destined to manifest to mankind the excellence of divine principles; to establish on earth the noblest temple ever dedicated to the worship of the Most High—the Sacred and the True. Its floor shall be a hemisphere—its roof the firmament of the star-studded heavens, and its congregation an Union of many Republics, comprising hundreds of happy millions, calling, owning no man master, but governed by God's natural and moral law of equality, the law of brotherhood—of "peace and good will amongst men." …

Yes, we are the nation of progress, of individual freedom, of universal enfranchisement. Equality of rights is the cynosure of our union of States, the grand exemplar of the correlative equality of individuals; and while truth sheds its effulgence, we cannot retrograde, without dissolving the one and subverting the other. We must onward to the fulfilment of our mission—to the entire development of the principle of our organization—freedom of conscience, freedom of person, freedom of trade and business pursuits, universality of freedom and equality. This is our high destiny, and in nature's eternal, inevitable decree of cause and effect we must accomplish it. All this will be our future history, to establish on earth the moral dignity and salvation of man—the immutable truth and beneficence of God. For this blessed mission to the nations of the world, which are shut out from the life-giving light of truth, has America been chosen; and her high example shall smite unto death the tyranny of kings, hierarchs, and oligarchs, and carry the glad tidings of peace and good will where myriads now endure an existence scarcely more enviable than that of beasts of the field. Who, then, can doubt that our country is destined to be the great nation of futurity?

Source 2

Henry Lewis
Saint Louis in 1846 (Painting, 1846)

painting showing a river in the distance on the banks with trees there are covered wagons and horses with people resting on a log in the background on the other side of the river shows a city with many buildings and in the river are boats with steaming engines

Sample Strong Response to the Constructed-Response Assignment (582 words)

The learning goal of this lesson is for students to analyze two late-Jacksonian era primary sources in order to understand and describe the characteristics of mid-19th century American nationalism.

In order to assess readiness, I would check students' understanding of the settlement and territorial expansion of the United States from 1783 to the 1840s that provided the geographical context for the formation of a new national identity in the Jacksonian era. This could be done by projecting a map of the United States on the front board and, as an entire class, filling in the sections of the old Northwest and Southwest, the Louisiana Territory and Florida, and Texas as they happened in rough chronological order. During this activity, I would point out to the students that, as the United States changed geographically, so did its identity as former European colonies change into something new.

One strategy to activate student learning would be to pose the essential question, "What is America?" After brainstorming answers with students in terms of contemporary America, I would note that each generation since the American Revolution has answered that essential question differently, and in this lesson we are going to investigate how Americans in the 1840s answered it by analyzing an essay and painting from the time period.

Given the O'Sullivan essay's complexity, a jigsaw method would help students access the text. Divide the class into five heterogeneous groups. Assign four of the groups to read a particular paragraph in the O'Sullivan essay, extracting three to five key phrases that express characteristics of America's identity. The fifth group would analyze the Lewis painting with the same goal in mind. When all groups were done and their work checked for successful identification, I would reorganize them into five new groups, comprised of one member from each of the original groups, and instruct them to share their analytical findings. I would then provide excerpts of speeches from the time period and instruct the students to highlight key phrases that agree or disagree with the article or painting.

Probably the greatest challenge for students in this lesson is the complexity of the vocabulary in the O'Sullivan essay, such as antiquity, beneficent, or cynosure. One effective strategy to counter this would be to put the O'Sullivan essay into a new document, identify the challenging vocabulary, and then parenthetically insert next to the words an accessible definition or synonym, e.g. antiquity [ancient times] or beneficent [unselfish].

Whenever a lesson entails identifying and describing the characteristics of a broad historical phenomenon, a graphic organizer that breaks those characteristics into the categories of political, economic, cultural, and social is necessary. At the beginning of the lesson, I would distribute a chart entitled "What was America in the mid-19th century?" that had four columns, one for each of the above categories. With this modification, students would be instructed to sort their analytical findings by category and record them in the appropriate column, e.g. "freedom of trade and business pursuits" in the economic characteristics column or the pioneering family in the Lewis painting foreground in the social characteristics column.

One way to formatively assess the extent of student progress toward the learning objective would be to have each student imagine they are a Jacksonian Era politician running for election in St. Louis. They have to compose and deliver a one-minute speech. Their campaign speech must incorporate at least five of the characteristics, three from O'Sullivan and two from Lewis, that were prevalent in Jacksonian Era nationalism.

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.


Saint Louis in 1846, 1846 (oil on canvas), Lewis, Henry (1819-1904) / Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri, USA / Eliza McMillan Trust / Bridgeman Images