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Study Guide

Field 241: Multi-Subject: Secondary Teachers
(Grade 7–Grade 12)
Part One: Literacy and English Language Arts

Sample Constructed-Response Item

Competency 0004
Analysis, Synthesis, and Application

Use the information provided in the exhibits to complete the task that follows.

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

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

Exhibit 1: Excerpt

During a unit on civil rights, a ninth-grade teacher sets the learning goal below.

Students will be able to read and analyze a historical document to identify the central idea and reflect on their learning.

The teacher assigns students to read an excerpt from a speech delivered by Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in 1987 on the occasion of the bicentennial of the Constitution. Students read the excerpt and respond to it in writing in preparation for a whole-class discussion about rights guaranteed by the Constitution. The excerpt appears below.

For a sense of the evolving nature of the Constitution we need look no further than the first three words of the document's preamble: "We the people." When the Founding Fathers used this phrase in 1787, they did not have in mind the majority of America's citizens. "We the People" included, in the words of the Framers, "the whole Number of free Persons." On a matter so basic as the right to vote, for example, Negro slaves were excluded, although they were counted for representational purposes at three fifths each. Women did not gain the right to vote for over a hundred and thirty years....

It took a bloody civil war before the 13th Amendment could be adopted to abolish slavery, though not the consequences slavery would have for future Americans.

While the Union survived the civil war, the Constitution did not. In its place arose a new, more promising basis for justice and equality, the 14th Amendment, ensuring protection of the life, liberty, and property of all persons against deprivations without due process, and guaranteeing equal protection of the laws. And yet almost another century would pass before any significant recognition was obtained of the rights of black Americans to share equally even in such basic opportunities as education, housing, and employment, and to have their votes counted, and counted equally.1

Exhibit 2: Student Written Response

Beth, a student whose primary language is English, silently reads the excerpt from Thurgood Marshall's speech and then responds in writing to two comprehension questions. The questions and Beth's written responses appear below.

What is the central idea in the excerpt?

The central idea is that the Constitution was involved. The Founding Fathers talked about "the people," but they didn't mean all people. The Farmers were only talking about numbers of free Persons. Slaves and women could not vote. The original Constitution did not survive the Civil War. After the Civil War, there was a new constitution called the 14th Amendment.

Why are the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments important?

The 13th Amendment ended slavery. The 14th Amendment replaced the Constitution. It guaranteed protection for everybody's lives, liberty, and property. It was a long process. It took 100 years for African Americans to have such basic opportunities as education, housing, and employment, and to have their votes counted equally.

Exhibit 3: Teacher Notes

After the whole-class discussion about the excerpt from Thurgood Marshall's speech, the teacher documents informal observations related to Beth's reading comprehension and her participation in the discussion. The teacher's notes appear below.

Beth struggled to understand the information in this document, especially the unfamiliar vocabulary and complex ideas.

Before the discussion, I showed the class a slide of the preamble of the Constitution. Beth recognized the phrase "We the People" and said, "They're not talking about all the people who were living in the United States in 1787. They're not talking about the slaves."

Beth was quiet at the beginning of the discussion. She listened to her classmates before she spoke up. She often has strong opinions and is not shy about voicing them when she feels comfortable. Today, at the end of the class discussion, Beth announced that she did not understand why it took so long for African Americans to get the equal rights promised by the 14th Amendment, or why it took 130 years for women to get the right to vote. This is evidence that her active listening during the class discussion helped her clarify and reflect on her understanding of the text.

Exhibit 4: Student Self-Assessment and Reflection

After the whole-class discussion, the teacher asks students to answer questions in their reading journals as part of their ongoing self-assessment and reflection. The teacher's questions and Beth's responses appear below.

What important information did you learn from the discussion?

I learned that the people who wrote the Constitution are called Founding Fathers because they founded the U.S. government. This found is not the same as when you say "I found my keys." They are also called Framers because they framed the Constitution. Framing the Constitution is not the same as framing a picture. I'm glad I didn't say anything about the farmers! I would've felt stupid!

When Thurgood Marshall talked about the "evolving nature of the Constitution," he meant that it changes. I was confused. I thought he meant the Constitution was replaced. We still have the Constitution, but it is different because it has Amendments.

Make a list of words from the speech that you did not know, write down the strategy you used to understand each word, and define them.

  1. preamble
    I know pre- means before, but I'm not sure what the rest means. So I decided to look it up.

  2. deprivations
    I thought maybe it meant something like not private. I decided to wait until we talked about the speech to see if someone explained it. No one really talked about it.

  3. due process
    I remember the teacher talking about this but I can't remember what it means. It's pretty complicated.

Sample Strong Response to the Constructed-Response Assignment

One significant strength Beth demonstrates is the ability to use active listening skills to enhance her understanding of ideas and to clarify misapprehensions. This strength is noted in the final sentence of the Teacher Notes. In Beth's self-assessment and reflection, she describes how the class discussion clarified her understanding of several key phrases and concepts in the excerpt. For example, Beth was able to elicit the content-specific meanings of the words "found" and "frame" from the group discussion, and was then able to determine the meanings of the words within the context of the excerpt. After taking part in the class discussion, she was also able to alter her understanding of the word "evolve" in the context of the excerpt.

Beth does, however, exhibit a need for a broader working vocabulary. Beth's written responses to comprehension questions about the excerpt from a speech by Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall demonstrate that her understanding of the central idea is hindered by limited vocabulary knowledge. Beth attempts to determine word meanings strategically, such as when she isolates the prefix in the word "preamble." Unable to determine the word's meaning from the prefix, she then employs a different strategy. Also using her knowledge of prefixes, she speculates that the meaning of the word "deprivations" may be "not private." When this strategy fails, Beth waits for the word to come up during the class discussion. When it does not, she does not pursue another strategy, such as looking up the word or asking for help understanding the word's meaning. Beth recalls the teacher talking about the term "due process," but does not recall its meaning. Beth's statement that the term is "pretty complicated" suggests that she did not fully understand the teacher's explanation of the term or how it relates to the overall meaning of the speech.

While the strategies Beth employs to determine the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary are useful in general, she would be well served by explicit, scaffolded instruction designed to promote vocabulary development. Beth's vocabulary development could be significantly improved through direct instruction in Tier Two and Tier Three content-specific vocabulary prior to reading. This instruction would include the teacher defining the word in the context of the reading, the student restating the definition in her own words, possibly creating a visual image of the word (if appropriate), comparing vocabulary words to other words using analogies or metaphors, having peer discussion of word definitions, and reinforcing this knowledge through periodic review of these words throughout the unit and school year. For example, for the word "framers," Beth or her peers might draw an analogy between carpenters who frame a house and the Founding Fathers who framed the Constitution. A photograph of carpenters building the framework for a house would help convey the concept of the Constitution as the framework of laws on which the United States was built. Rich exploration of vocabulary prior to and during reading is crucial to understanding the meaning of a text, and would gradually build Beth's working vocabulary.

This strategy would be effective in addressing Beth's need for a broader working vocabulary. Pre-reading instruction in targeted vocabulary will allow Beth to build on what she already knows rather than attempting to memorize a contextually disconnected definition. Working with new words on multiple occasions and in a variety of modalities will ensure that Beth's connections to those words are based on deep, rather than superficial, processing. This explicit approach to vocabulary instruction would provide the scaffolding necessary to enhance Beth's comprehension of written texts.

Performance Characteristics for Constructed-Response Item

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

Table outlining performance characteristics.
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.


1Republished with permission of Harvard Law Review Association, from "Reflections on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution" published in the Harvard Law Review by Thurgood Marshall, 1987; permission conveyed through Copyright Clearance Center, Inc.