Close Reading, Constructed Response and The Comprehension of Content

Brief constructed responses are four to five sentence paragraphs with content grounded in evidence. All constructed responses are text-dependent. They require students to think beyond the recall of facts and use analysis, synthesis and evaluation citing evidence from the text to support their responses. Students have to think critically about what they read to produce a coherent written response, and through close readings of the text cited, they improve their comprehension of the content.

However—

Some teachers feel uncomfortable teaching students how to write, but the short format of a constructed response along with a list of useful transition words and phrases help alleviate some of that fear. It’s important to remember that a well-written constructed response requires Close Reading. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) identify three elements important for reading comprehension that are also important to the process of Close Reading.

A constructed response includes all of these ideas and details.

CCSS – Key Ideas and Details for Reading

  1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  2. Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
  3. Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Expeditionary Learning provides an important list of elements for what happens during Close Reading. This list is important to keep in mind when helping students write constructed responses.

Things Close Readers Do

  • Get the gist of what a text is about
  • Use the text to answer the question
  • Reread the text
  • Gather evidence (quotes) from the text
  • Annotate text
  • Focus on key vocabulary
  • Discuss to clarify  thinking and deepen understanding
  • Use the text to gather evidence for text-dependent questions

Two Ways to Understand the Essentials of a Constructed Response

There many ideas for building a constructed response, but these two are quick and easy to use and understand.                                                              

 

1. RACE

  • Restate the Question
  • Answer the Question
  • Cite Evidence
  • Explain the Answer


Here is how educator Julie Faulkner taught the RACE approach to her students:
The following sample response asked students to analyze the tone of William Carlos Williams’s poem “This is Just to Say.” They were provided with the one hint that when writing about a poem or short piece, it is important to reference the author and title in the opening sentence.

 

Sample constructed response using RACE:

In William Carlos Williams’s poem “This is Just to Say,” tone is a crucial clue in determining his sincerity.  I don’t think his apology was all that sincere.  He says, “They were delicious.” To further describe the plums that he ate, instead of saying he was story, he rubs it in that they were “sweet and so cold.”  Thus, his tone was insincere and he obviously enjoyed attempting to aggravate his wife.

 

Sample response deconstructed using RACE:

In William Carlos Williams’s poem “This is Just to Say,” tone is a crucial clue in determining his sincerity.
  • Identify and mention the key word in the prompt/question and rephrase the question/prompt
 I don’t think his apology was all that sincere.
  • Answer the question. This ultimately becomes the thesis for the response.
He says, “They were delicious.”
  • First evidence using a citation from the original poem with a signal phrase.
To further describe the plums that he ate, instead of saying he was story, he rubs it in that they were “sweet and so cold.”
  • Second evidence using a citation from the original poem with a transition word and clear analysis.
Thus, his tone was insincere and he obviously enjoyed attempting to aggravate his wife.
  •   End the response by restating the key word or your answer for the key word. This example does both and gives a tiny bit more closure.
  1. Yes MA’AM

This is another approach from Sarah Ambler that illustrates the 4-part constructed response and offers suggestions for transition use.

M–Me

The first sentence of the response should reword the question and state a personal opinion or direct response to the question.


A–Author

The first “A” prompts the student to look at what the author said and to include a detail from the text to support his answer.


A–Author

The second “A” reminds the student that a constructed response requires multiple supporting details from the author.


M–Me

The response ends with the student (me) explaining or interpreting the significance of the evidence.

Text-Dependent Questions, Essential Questions and the Constructed Response

Example of a Text-Dependent Question

  • Could people live on Earth if there were no Sun? Why or why not? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.

Example of an Essential Question from the Project Based Learning Unit Time Travelers – The Colonial X Factor – GoTeachGo.

  • How would the world be different today if our colonial settlers had better information and tools?

The text-dependent question assumes students have read what they needed to read to answer in detail the question. The essential question is broad and more thematic, but it can be made to be text-dependent.

Adapt it this way:

How would the world be different today if our colonial settlers had better information and tools? Why do you think this way? Use evidence from the text to support your answer.

For more information about text-dependent questions, examples of constructed responses, and the comprehension of content via writing, visit these websites:

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Be sure to visit TeachersPayTeachers to examine lots of great PBL units of study from GoTeachGo that incorporate all the critical thinking skills necessary to write well-written constructed responses.

Author Sheri Rose,  http://www.precisioncopyeditingllc.com

 

 

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