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Study Guide

Field 211: Multi-Subject: Teachers of Early Childhood
(Birth–Grade 2)
Part One: Literacy and English Language Arts

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Sample Constructed-Response Item

Competency 0004 
Analysis, Synthesis, and Application

start boldUse the information in the exhibits to complete the task that follows. end bold

Using your knowledge of content and sound pedagogical practices in literacy and English language arts, analyze the information provided and write a response of approximately 400 to  600 words in which you:

Be sure to use evidence from start bold all end bold the exhibits in your response.

Exhibit 1: Teacher Notes

Student: Joseph B.
Home Language: English

Age: 6 Grade: 1st
IEP?: no

Jan. 5 Poetry Café, Day 2—Joseph presented his spaghetti poem, a very clever satire of the Hoberman poem we read in class. Some of the same language and the same structure, only about spaghetti. He liked reading to the group, and the other kids were impressed.

Jan. 10 Oral reading fluency screening (winter): Joseph's rate is 21 WCPM,* marginally below the winter  50th  percentile benchmark of 23 WCPM. His accuracy rate was  87 percent . Overall comprehension was low.

Feb. 10 Joseph said he forgot his library books at home again this week, so he couldn't check out new books. I noticed later that he did have the books in his backpack. He said he was "still using them," and he didn't want to read a different book.

Feb. 11 During quiet reading break, Joseph had a book open to the same page the whole time—ten minutes. He seemed distracted, looked out the window a couple of times. When his eyes were on the book, his mind was clearly elsewhere.

*WCPM: Words Correct Per Minute

Exhibit 2: Reading Literature

The teacher makes a record of students' oral reading performance during a screening assessment of their oral reading fluency. After students read a passage, the teacher asks them comprehension questions. Joseph's performance record is shown below, followed by a transcript of the conversation between Joseph and the teacher about the text.

Exhibit 3: Reading Informational Text

Over the course of two days, the teacher reads aloud an informational book about an unusual relationship that formed between two animals at a wildlife refuge, an orphaned baby hippopotamus, called Owen, and "a grumpy 130-year-old male" tortoise, called Mzee (Hatkoff, et al. 2007). During the read-aloud, the teacher pauses regularly to guide students in using background knowledge and context to understand some of the challenging words in the text.

The teacher ends the read-aloud on the first day with an excerpt that includes the word  start italics nurture end italics  (reprinted below). After reading the excerpt once, the teacher writes the word  start italics nurture end italics  on the board, and asks students to explain in writing the meaning of  start italics nurture end italics  as it was used in the passage. The teacher reads the passage again and provides students with a short time to complete the assignment in their journals. The passage and Joseph's journal entry appear below.

Mzee can be rather bossy.... But most of the time, Mzee, whose name in the Swahili language means "wise old man," is like a gentle guardian to Owen. When Owen is upset by people or noise and prepares to charge, Mzee often blocks Owen's way and calmly holds him off, as if reassuring Owen that there is no need for alarm. This is the kind of wise guidance that Owen's mother or father would have given him. No one knows why Mzee—a reptile, without the instincts to nurture another animal—is able and willing to nurture Owen. But clearly, he is.Acknowledgments 1

Joseph B.

Feb. 3


Mze nurchers OweN. He heps him lern about Lif and bE wizer.
Own is a baybE  Mze taks cayr him.

Mzee nurtures Owen. He helps him learn about life and be wiser.
Owen is a baby. Mzee takes care of him.

Sample Strong Response to the Constructed-Response Assignment

Joseph demonstrates a significant strength in comprehension skills when text is read orally to him or with him/the class. This is evidenced by his writing a satire of a poem read aloud in class (Exhibit 1). In this context, he was able to understand the structure, language, and meaning of the poem well enough to recreate them in an original poem clearly related to the poem he had heard. This strength is also evident when he defined the word "nurture" (Exhibit 3). Joseph defines nurture by saying that "Mzee nurtures Owen" when "Mzee takes care of Owen." Joseph shows he understands the phrase "wise guidance" in the context of the passage in which the phrase follows an example of Mzee's guidance and is then further explained as the kind of thing Owen's parents would give him. Joseph infers that Mzee "helps him [Owen] learn about life" (which is not explicitly stated in the text).

Joseph demonstrates a significant need in decoding. The assessment data and notes reveal weak decoding skills that adversely affect his fluency, comprehension, and motivation to read. His teacher notes in Exhibit 1 that his oral fluency screening is just below the 50th percentile and his comprehension is low. In Exhibit 2, he struggles with automaticity as evidenced by numerous pauses and self-corrections. In particular, he struggles with decoding, pronouncing most vowels as short regardless of letter patterns ("Nel" for Neal, "tod" for toad, "snak" for snake). This difficulty clearly detracts from comprehension, as evidenced by his responses in Exhibit 2, where he can answer fewer than half the questions accurately. His spelling in Exhibit 3 also reveals phonics challenges (misspelling "r"-controlled vowels, silent "e" at the end of words: "Lif" and "taks").

An instructional strategy to address Joseph’s needs would be to work with Joseph (small group or individually) to develop his phonics skills to improve automatic decoding. The first area of focus would be long-vowel patterns. I would start by giving Joseph letter cards and asking him to spell a simple 3-letter word, using a CVC pattern (e.g., not) while saying it aloud. Then I'd move an "e" on to the end of this word and guide him in pronouncing the word. I would ask him to notice what happened to the vowel in the middle when an "e" is added. We would practice this with several words (kit/kite, mat/mate, tot/tote) and then move to longer words with a similar pattern, such as "snake," which is a word he had trouble decoding. Then I would give him blank cards to make word cards for his word bank. We would use the word cards to write sentences to practice oral reading. I would also use picture cards with the silent "e" pattern for Joseph to use in a matching game, to reinforce this pattern with a visual. This sequence would also be done with other  word or spelling  patterns. CVVC would be next because he exhibited a problem with this in reading "Neal" and "toad."

This strategy would be effective in addressing Joseph’s need for decoding skills in several ways. Direct instruction in targeted letter patterns gives him the specific information he needs. The combination of making, saying, writing, and reading these new words promotes learning by engaging several senses: Joseph will be acquiring and applying new knowledge in several modalities. Repetition helps him discern and recall letter patterns.

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.
U The 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.
B No response.


1From OWEN & MZEE: THE LANGUAGE OF FRIENDSHIP by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff, and Dr. Paula Kahumbu. Copyright 2007 by Turtle Pond Publications. Reprinted by permission of Scholastic Inc.