Constructing Strong Responses: R.A.C.E. and the "American Dream"

Unlike previous posts, this one will be in the present tense and will cover the lessons from both Thursday, January 15th and Friday, January 16th, 2015.


Students, what is the “American Dream”?  What is your “American Dream?”

Task: Choose any two of the resources linked below and then complete the Essay Scorer assignment entitled “Your American Dream.”

Step 1 (of 3): Resources

Directions: Read any two of the resources below.  Then proceed on to Step 2.

Step 2 (of 3): R.A.C.E.

Directions: Now that you have read two of the resources above, create a R.A.C.E. graphic organizer using the form below.  Afterward, proceed to step 3 (do not click “submit”until you finish inputting your Essay Scorer response).

Writing Prompt: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. famously stated that he wished to see a future where different races were integrated in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Now that this has become a reality, what is your dream of the future in the United States? Write an essay clearly painting a picture of your vision of the American Dream.

Step 3 (of 3): Essay Scorer

Directions: You are at the last step.  Log in to Essay Scorer using the directions below and complete the assignment entitled “Your American Dream” using what you wrote in your R.A.C.E. graphic organizer above.  You will have to write at least 3 separate paragraphs.  That said, you may rewrite your essay up to 12 times.  When you finish, click “submit for grading.”

Essay Scorer Student Link:

Login: First Name

Password: Last Name (unless otherwise specified by teacher)


Did you finish early?  Follow the instructions below.

Directions: Go to this page and follow the instructions for extension work.  Any extension work assignments completed must be submitted as specified or else extra credit will not be awarded.



  • Read for 30 minutes.
  • Any work not finished in class will be completed the next day.
  • Please Note: Extension work will need to be completed in order to count for extra credit.


  • No PowerPoint presentation for Thursday, January 15th nor Friday, January 16, 2015


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.