Creating Constructed Responses

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, there is a huge shift toward the inclusion of constructed responses in testing.  These concentrated responses provide students with the opportunity to show what they know.

Today, we focused on the RACE strategy for organizing information from a text in order to create a strong constructed response.

The students then read the article “The Sharebots” and completed the RACE graphic organizer below based on the following topic:


Read the article “The Sharebots” and answer the question below.

 ›Explain whether the author’s choice of words and phrases effectively describes the robots and their behaviors. In your response, use words and phrases from the passage that support your explanation. Write your answer on your answer document.

RACE Graphic Organizer

Upon verifying that each student understood how to use this mnemonic and graphic organizer, the were then provided with their homework assignment (which will also become part of tomorrow’s classwork assignment as well).  The students were to read the articles “Codetalking” and “The Navajo” and then create a constructed response to one of the six prompts below for homework:

  1. Explain whether knowing that the passage from “The Navajo” is non-fiction makes the article easier to understand. In your response, use information from the article that supports your explanation. Write your answer on your answer document.
  2. Explain which article more effectively uses words and phrases to persuade a reader about the value of the contributions of Native Americans during World War II. In your response, use information from the article that supports your explanation. Write your answer on your answer document.
  3. Explain what information could have been added to the passage from Codetalking to help a reader better understand an important idea in the article. In your response use information from the article that supports your explanation. Write your answer on your answer document.
  4. Which article more effectively expresses the author’s attitude toward the Code Talkers? In your response use information from the article that supports your answer. Write your answer on your answer document.
  5. Explain how a reader could determine the reliability of the information in the passage from The Navajo? In your response, use information from the article that supports your explanation. Write your answer on your answer document.
  6. What text feature could have been added to “Codetalking” so that a reader could better understand information about Native American languages? In your response use information from the article that supports your answer. Write your answer on your answer document.

The students will create two more constructed responses in class tomorrow from any of the remaining five prompts above.  The materials can be found below:


  • Read for 30 minutes.
  • Create one constructed response to the texts “Codetalking” and “The Navajo” per the instructions above.



The Anatomy (and Purpose) of a Constructed Response

With the shift away from the CRCT and the 8th grade Georgia Middle Grades Writing Assessment to the Georgia Milestones (the new, end-of grade standards-based assessment), students need to be informed of how to more clearly show what they know through their writing.  In essence, the CRCT provided standards-based questions for Social Studies, Math, Science, Reading, and English Language arts in multiple choice format only.  The 8th grade Georgia Middle Grades Writing Assessment, on the other hand, required 8th graders (this assessment was also given at the 5th grade level) to read a writing prompt and construct a timed essay in roughly 100 minutes.  The Georgia Milestones provides a hybrid of these two testing formats and issues them to all students of all grade levels (with grade-appropriate questions, passages, etc.).

Today’s lesson used yesterday’s “Response to a Response” assignment as a segue into understanding the constructed responses (student-created answers) the students will be asked to provide on the upcoming Georgia Milestones.

So, what is a “constructed response”?  According to the ASCD (The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development), a “constructed response” is where students provide their own answer to a question as opposed to multiple choice questions where students are provided with four or five answer choices or “fill-in-blank” questions where students have to, well, fill in the blank based upon their accumulated content knowledge.  The goal is to provide an assessment that helps students show what they know as accurately as possible.

I took time to show the students examples of constructed response questions (a.k.a. prompts) and actual student answers from published tests ( example below).  Not only will knowing how to answer constructed response questions benefit students on the upcoming Georgia Milestones, but will help students better address similar assessment questions in high school and college.  Furthermore, it will help students better cite and expound upon any evidence they draw from outside sources when communicating through any media (especially written media).

Constructed Response Example



  • Read for 30 minutes.


The Return to School (a.k.a. Learning about Constructed Responses)

The students trickled groggily into the hallways of school today, some struggled to remember their locker combinations, some couldn’t wait to show off their new Christmas/Hanukkah outfits, and others surprised their friends with belated gifts.  The return to school after any extended break is like starting up a car that has been sitting unused in a car port; it takes a minute for all of the pieces of the machine to re-engage and remember the flow of things.

Today, as we settled back into our day-to-day routine, we began exploring the world of constructed responses.  I first showed the students an array of Op-Ed articles to get their minds thinking about a variety of issues including the anticipation of New Year’s Eve, the “best” and “worst” of 2014, and the cancelled and then reinstated release of “The Interview”.  After a brief discussion, the students shared what they observed about the structure of Op-Ed writings, the topics explored by the writers, the opinion of the writers, and what support was used in these pieces.  In an activity called “Response to the Response,” they then had the opportunity to read and respond to one of the two Op-Ed pieces below in a three paragraph response:


  • Read for 30 minutes.
  • Finish whatever was not completed in class with in the “Response to the Response” activity.


Tuesday-Thursday, November 13th-15th, 2012

I decided to lump these three days together into one post as the students worked on their Benchmark Assessments.  These county-issued exams count for only 5% in the gradebook and serve as a way to see how the students are doing across the county.  With the switch to Common Core, this Benchmark was the first one issued with Constructed Responses (BCRs or short-answer questions) and Extended Responses (longer-form essay-length responses).  Since these days were pretty much the same in format, the PowerPoints below are pretty much the same as well.


HOMEWORK: Read for 30 minutes.

October 23rd-26th, 2012 in Review

Phew, the calendar finally freed up a little more to allow for me to update this blog with the information from the days I have missed.  Here is a look at the lessons of October 23rd to the 26th.

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

  • The students learned about the Organizational Patterns that we use when writing essays.  The ones we focused on were:
    • Cause and Effect
    • Comparison and Contrast
    • Problem and Solution
    • Chronological Order
    • Logical Order
  • 10-23-12 The Organization Station

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

  • It took a bit longer than I had anticipated with the discussion of the different types of Organizational Patterns so the students finished their notes on this third day on the topic.
  • 10-25-12 The Organization Station Part 3

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Wednesday was the first of two days allotted for the SRI (Scholastic Reading Inventory), a test that assesses each student’s reading or Lexile level.  Though we have students that are at a variety of reading levels, the target levels for grades 6-8 are 960-1115.  The reading levels for all grade levels are below:


Lexile Band

Lexile Band*



















*Parents, ask your child for their Lexile score.  You can visit to find books at your child’s Lexile level.  The second column is where students may be “stretched” into to raise their reading prowess.  For more information on the Lexile program and to download the mobile app, visit

As with all self-directed activities, there were students who finished early.  They were directed to visit the “Extension Work” page on my blog where they were to complete a BCR based on the video or article they viewed.  They were also given the opportunity to re-do their bumper stickers (last night’s homework) if they did not meet the expectations.

HOMEWORK: Re-do Bumper Sticker to turn in tomorrow (Thursday), Work on Create-A-Song (due Friday)

PowerPoint: 9-19-12 SRI Assessment Day 1