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The NNWP celebrates its Consultants who've created websites about teaching and writing:


Corbett's
Always Write
Website
(Grades K-12)



Jodie's
Start to Learn
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(Kindergarten)



Holly's
Making Mathematicians
Website

(Grades K-12)



Brian's
Learning is Messy
Blog

(Grades 4-6)



Dena's
Write in the Middle
Website

(Grades 6-8)

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Writing About Reading: Constructed Response
resources for helping students construct written answers

"Dear WritingFix and NNWP, I was so happy to find your Constructed Response webpage. At first, I was really disappointed that I could not physically attend your September Summit, since I live quite far from Reno, but then I started studying the resources you have posted for any of us teachers to use. Can I just say 'Wow!' They're not only easy to make sense of and very self-explanatory to an individual teacher like myself, but your materials also started amazing conversations among my staff when I printed them off and shared** them at our staff meeting. Our whole school did remarkably better on the CRTs this year. We all thank you for your amazing generosity with materials. This year, I am going to talk my principal into ordering some of your other books. Thanks again." (Phyllis Carson, Nevada teacher)

**Kindly read our WritingFix permission page before sharing this page's resources with other teachers.

Between 2006 and 2009, the Northern Nevada Writing Project hosted three year-long workshops for Nevada teachers who were interested in introducing Constructed Response to their classrooms. The work done by these collaborating teachers created and inspired all the work done on this page.

What is a Constructed Response? Kristi Pettengill of the Northern Nevada Writing Project explains: "C.R. is, quite simply, a written response to a question. In Nevada, students are asked to 'construct' answers to questions on our Reading, Math, and Science Criterion Referenced Tests. (For more about how Constructed Response is used on the Nevada CRT visit the Nevada Department of Education Website.) C.R. is a great way to determine whether or nor students have really gotten it - they can't guess their way to a right answer. In classrooms, teachers use C.R. all the time in short answer, mini-essays, and other types of responses. Truthfully, we've been using for a long time! Now, Constructed Response is in the spotlight because this question format is on our high-stakes tests."

Kristi was our NNWP Consultant who created our first C.R. cadre in 2006. During that first year, her cadre created resources and ideas that--over the next three years--became features at each of our "Constructed Response Summits." Each year, a new group of elementary, middle, and high school teachers joined our summit and discovered new ways to make C.R. a classroom thinking tool. The Summit participants met in September for a full-day of training, then they met over the year at several follow-up trainings, where they shared new discoveries about C.R. they had made.

This page at WritingFix freely shares the ideas and resources we introduced to our Northern Nevada colleagues during these C.R. Summits.

Even though we won't offer our Constructed Response Summit again in 2010, we feel confident that any school, district, or individual teacher who uses this page's resources will find more than enough materials here to help them use C.R. in ways the help our students succeed on tests but--more importantly--as lifelong readers and writers.

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The two resources we purchased for all our Constructed Response Summit participants:

(Better Answers, Second Edition) by Ardith Davis Cole


Right-Answer Writing: An All-in-One Resource to Help Students Craft Better Responses by Ardith Davis Cole

Discussion Materials for PLCs and Teacher Study Groups

Materials from Four of our C.R. Summit Presenters

PLC Topic 1:
Teaching Students to Construct Answers

Overheard at our Constructed Response Summit:

"The most helpful thing to me when teaching Constructed Response was starting with a piece of text very familiar to the students.  We did CRs on the Nevada symbols, which we had already learned about.  Students were more focused on answering the question than not understanding the new content."

--Sherri Urban, Winnemucca ES

There are many ways to help students learn to craft quality constructed responses. It's important to remember that the key is that students MUST demonstrate comprehension of the text through their responses. That means that their responses do not have to be grammatically sound, nor especially well written. They simply need to answer all parts of the question correctly.

There are, however, tools that we can provide for our students that will help them organize their thinking to better answer a constructed response question. Having tools that students can use often makes them more comfortable when faced with a constructed response item on a test. The ACE tools (at right) are very helpful for teaching students how to construct an answer, and below find several other tools we offer here at WritingFix for groups of teachers:

Overheard at our Constructed Response Summit:

"Periodically incorporate Constructed Response passages related to student interest (skateboarding, Pokemon, etc.) versus standards.  It keeps them guessing and builds buy-in."

--Jen Garrett, Mendive MS


Overheard at our Constructed Response Summit:

"1.  Start at the beginning of the year and just do it.  Build CR into your schedule as a routine;

"2.  Model it first at least a couple of times, demonstrating different ways to answer the questions.  For example, model a paragraph one time and bullets the next time;

"3.  Let students use highlighters while reading CR passages so they can highlight important information."

--Marleen Rocha, Palmer ES


Overheard at our Constructed Response Summit:

"Begin learning about Constructed Response by writing one whole group.  Read it together, go over the rubric and question together, then score it together after it's written. 

"A few days later, give the same topic and ask students to complete the constructed response on their own.  Have students score their own and then score another response, giving explanations to their scores according to the rubric."

--Donna Chaney, Palmer ES


A song about Constructed Response:

First grade teacher, Vicki Henson, shared this song she wrote to teach her primary students the parts of a Constructed Response. It can be sung to the tune "Where is Thumbkim?" or "Are You Sleeping?"

As students start singing, they hold up a fist, slowly releasing it by raising the fingers indicated during the song's two verses.

What's the point? (raise pointer finger)
What's the point?
What do you need to know?
What do you need to know?
Now tell the answer. (raise "middle man")
Now tell the answer.
Isn't that great?
Isn't that great?

Give your detail. (raise ring finger)
Give another detail. (raise pinkie)
Punch it out! (raise thumb)
Punch it out! (make a fist again)
Now you're finished.
Now you're finished.
Isn't that great?
Isn't that great?



PLC Topic 2:
Assessing Constructed Responses

The best tool for assessing constructed responses is a rubric. In the CRT test booklet, our state gives each student a general rubric for responding to constructed response questions. Then, each question is assessed using a rubric designed especially for that question and passage. We encourage teachers to pattern their rubrics after the CR rubric from the state CRT. It's a sound instrument, and it helps students become more familiar with the tool that they can use on the CRT test. We like to create the rubric with students, but sometimes it's more appropriate to create the rubric before students begin to write. The key is to make sure that the rubric is in kid-friendly language that students can understand and use to assess their own work.

We also encourage you to show lots of student samples of Constructed Responses so they can see what a one would look like, a two, and so forth.

  • Rubric Template - a simple form you can use with students to create a rubric.
Six assessment suggestions from our original C.R. Cadre:
  • The rubric must match the CR question. The 3 expectations should be very close to the actual question.
  • Try to see what the students see - take off the teacher hat and put on the student hat.
  • Be as specific as possible. If the answer has to contain specific information, list it.
  • Use the same verbs and terms from the question in the rubric.
  • Watch words like "at least" or "all." These need to be supported in the text and state in the rubric.
  • If the question has more than one part, the rubric needs to specifically address all parts of the question

Presentation 1:
ACE-ing Math, Language Arts & Science Constructed Responses

At our Northern Nevada Constructed Response Summit, Instructional Coach Debra Bareño and Regional Trainer Holly Young facilitated sessions on teaching a framework for C.R. that they co-designed for math, but then expanded to work with language arts and science.

From our C.R. Summit Program description: "Are you pulling your hair out trying to fit teaching constructed response into an already too tight schedule? At the end of their session, not only will you have a clear and easy way to teach it, but you'll also leave with materials that you can use immediately in your classroom."

Click below to access Debra and Holly's materials from their incredibly-popular session:

Be sure to visit Holly's Making Mathematicians website for a video of her and Debra sharing the resources.

 


Presentation 2:
"Crafting" Questions for Constructed Response

NNWP Consultant Kristi Pettengill facilitated our very first Constructed Response Cadre in 2006. She brought together a talented group of 3rd-12th grade teachers who explored techniques for using C.R. as a weekly classroom thinking tool so that students--when prompted to construct answers on state tests--would have no problem explaining how they arrived at an intelligent answer to a question.

One of Kristi's favorite topics was helping teachers design questions that pushed students to think at a deeper level of the Bloom's taxonomy. Below, find some of the materials she and the original C.R. cadre created on this topic.

Overheard at our Constructed Response Summit:

"Students who understand the question being asked will shine in their responses.  We must teach the vocabulary needed to accomplish the goal.  Vocabulary examples: Describe three ways...; Predict how...; Solve and explain...; Identify and explain..."

--Sue Savage, Anderson ES



Presentation 3:
Constructed Response as Exit Tickets & Revision Tools for CR

NNWP Consultant Corbett Harrison was a member of our very first 2006 C.R. Cadre who later presented at every one of the C.R. Summits. The topics he presented on were representative of two of his biggest beliefs as a writing teacher.

First, Corbett believes that students (especially secondary students) should be required to write in every class (at least) once a week. Corbett's CRs as Exit Tickets presentation demonstrated how this could be done. Corbett's Exit Ticket Materials can all be accessed at WritingFix's Exit Ticket Homepage.

Second, Corbett believes that students learn more about writing during revision than during any other step of the writing process. His Revision Tools for Constructed Response Passages presentation shared tools for helping students revise and re-see their CR rough drafts.

Overheard at our Constructed Response Summit:

"Use Exit Tickets to teach CR:

  1. Pose a question at the beginning of a lesson;
  2. Students will listen better to the lesson;
  3. Students must write a CR that answers the question to exit.
  4. Post baseline scores on a class chart (no names!) that shows how their first Exit Ticket CR went.
  5. Set a class goal with each new Exit Ticket question."

--Johnna Ramos, Lemmon Valley ES

Click here (or on the thumbnail picture) to view/print Johnna's interactive writing she had her third graders do when they were learning about how to write a constructed response.

Revision Tools shared by Corbett during his presentation:

  • Post-it Checklist, version 1 - This is a sheet of six revision checklists that--if desired--can be printed onto actual Post-It notes and used by students to evaluate their own responses and determine where they might be improved. Click here for instruction to print them on Post-It notes.
  • Post-it Checklist, version 2 - This is a sheet of six revision checklists that--if desired--can be printed onto actual Post-It notes and used by students to evaluate their own responses and determine where they might be improved. Click here for instruction to print them on Post-It notes.
  • Trait-based Post-it Checklist, for all students - This is a sheet of six revision checklists that--if desired--can be printed onto actual Post-It notes and used by students to evaluate their own responses and determine where they might be improved. Click here for instruction to print them on Post-It notes.
  • Trait-based Post-it Checklist, for advanced students - This is a sheet of six revision checklists that--if desired--can be printed onto actual Post-It notes and used by students to evaluate their own responses and determine where they might be improved. Click here for instruction to print them on Post-It notes.

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Follow-up Activities used at our Constructed Response Summit

More Quotes from CR Summit Participants

Activity 1
A "Recipe" for Constructed Response

 

Activity 2
How To... Poems about Constructed Response

 

Activity 3
I used to be... Poems for Constructed Response

 

Over the summer of 2009, we will be posting write-ups of some of the follow-up activities our participants took part in duringour follow-up sessions. Check back with us soon!

At our CR Summit Follow-ups, we printed out all our teacher quotes and had participants discuss them. We are in the process of making a printable sheet with all our teacher quotes. Check back with us soon!

Overheard at our Constructed Response Summit:

"Just like teaching a kid to ride a bike, only hold the seat and run behind the bike the first few times.  Introduce Constructed Response frames to scaffold student learning, but 'let go' as soon as possible so the student can learn to take off on their own.  Just like training wheels slow down a bike, a scaffold can hold back freedom to write well."

--Susan Williams, Hunsberger ES



Overheard at our Constructed Response Summit:

"Resistant at first, I now see how even primary students--given adequate instruction, a precise format and time to practice--can do Constructed Response.  Using CR has improved my students' writing and their comprehension skills as well. 

"I believe that by introducing CR in the primary grades, and practicing this new skill in several areas of the curriculum throughout their school experience, students will become proficient and will increase their success rate on proficiency exams."

--Audrey Tolotti, Dunn ES



Overheard at our Constructed Response Summit:

"The hardest thing is having conversations with fellow staff.  Some see the validity; others don't until they have to score it for the formatives.  These conversations need to take place way before the formatives, which will allow for several things:

  1. time for the concept to "soak in" for teachers;
  2. time to discuss ways to teach CR to students
  3. time to evaluate student work & teaching
  4. being well-versed so that when CRs come, everyone knows what to do."

--Katy Scherr, Caughlin Ranch ES

WritingFix's Practice Passages for Constructed Response:

Our original 2006 Constructed Response Cadre felt it very important to post practice passages with student samples for teachers to use as they taught Constructed Response. When we encountered copyright issues, we decided to commission Sheila Stone Dill, a Northern Nevada writer and retired education specialist, to pen the nineteen leveled practice passages found on the remainder of this page. They are provided for you to use freely with your students. You may print multiple copies of the passages with no restrictions.

The passages are sorted by grade level, and the passages on the left-hand side come with student samples and teacher-made rubrics. We are still hoping to find student samples for the passages on the right-hand side. If you are a Nevada teacher who uses any of the passages on the right and who can send us 10-15 ranged student samples, we will send you a classroom resource as our thanks. Contact Corbett Harrison (charrison@washoe.k12.nv.us) for details.


Leveled Passages with Student Samples and Rubrics:

Third Grade Practice Passage:

"Dat-so-la-lee" -- a passage for third grade reading levels with a CR question, a rubric, and a class set of student samples. The samples are included to encourage you to teach your students how to score constructed responses by using the rubric and looking closely at the question. Teacher Denise Boswell, who provided the samples and the rubric, includes her commentary on these handouts.

Fourth Grade Practice Passage:

"Meals on Wheels" -- a passage for fourth grade reading levels with a CR question, a rubric, and eight student samples. The samples are included to encourage you to teach your students how to score constructed responses by using the rubric and looking closely at the question. Thanks to teacher Sue Savage for sharing the rubric and the student samples.

Fifth Grade Practice Passages:

"A Clubhouse for Trevor and Me" a passage for fifth grade reading levels with a CR question, a rubric, and several student samples. The samples are included to encourage you to teach your students how to score constructed responses by using the rubric and looking closely at the question. Thanks to teacher Liz Schroeder for sharing the rubric and the student samples.

"My Grampa's Garden" a passage for fifth grade reading levels with a CR question, a place to build a rubric with your students, and eleven student samples. The samples are included to encourage you to teach your students how to score constructed responses by using the rubric and looking closely at the question. Thanks to teacher Donna Chaney for sharing the rubric and the student samples.

Sixth Grade Practice Passage:

"Clouds Forecast the Weather" a passage for sixth grade reading levels with a CR question, a rubric, and a set of student samples. The samples are included to encourage you to teach your students how to score constructed responses by using the rubric and looking closely at the question. Thanks to teacher Torrey Palmer for sharing the rubric and the student samples.

Seventh Grade Practice Passage:

"Make a Wish, the Rick Gunn Story" a passage for seventh grade reading levels with a CR question, a rubric, and a set of student samples. The samples are included to encourage you to teach your students how to score constructed responses by using the rubric and looking closely at the question. Thanks to teacher Lisa Larson for sharing the rubric and the student samples.

Passages Needing Student Samples and Rubrics:

Second Grade Practice Passages:

Third Grade Practice Passages:

Fifth Grade Practice Passages:

Middle School Practice Passages:

High School Practice Passages:

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