MENU
Featured Image

From Mirko Chardin

January 2018

At our most recent School Council meeting, we shared with families the work we are doing with both staff and students around independent reading and constructed response—two areas where families can support and reinforce our efforts.

In September, English teachers worked hard to launch a school-wide independent reading program with the goal of every student reading 20 books independently by the end of the year. To support this goal, English teachers:

  • Assign nightly homework of reading for 30 minutes and check in daily with students about their reading at home,
  • Dedicate 30-45 minutes a week in class to having students read independently, and
  • Require students to give 4 book talks over the course of the school year.
  • School-wide we support this work by dedicating weekly time in advisory for students to read independently. It is important to note that if students read every night, then over the course of the school year they will be exposed to over 1 million words!

How can you help?

  • Ask your student what they are reading. Have them tell you about it—What happened? Do you like the book? Why or why not? What has surprised you about the book?
  • Read and discuss a book together.
  • Recommend books or ask them to share their book talk with you.
  • Track or help them track how many books they have read.
  • Take them to the public library.
  • Read out loud to your child.
  • For more ideas, check out the Mind/Shift article, “How to Help Students Develop a Love of Reading

Additionally, as a school, we are working on constructed response—a type of question that can be found on both the Math and the English MCAS. In order for students to be successful on a constructed response question, they need to be able to:

  • Present and develop a central idea (i.e. a claim or a solution),
  • Provide evidence/details from multiple passages, data, experiments, and/or show work,
  • Produce clear and coherent writing that is organized and appropriate to the task and audience, and
  • Demonstrate and be able to explain their analysis and reasoning.

An example of a Math constructed response (2017 MCAS, 8th Grade) is:

Jason is comparing the sizes of Earth, Saturn, and a lacrosse ball. The radius of Earth is approximately 6,378,100 meters.

  • Part A. What is the radius of Earth, in meters, written as a single-digit number multiplied by a power of 10? Enter your answer in the space provided. Enter only your answer.
  • Part B. The radius of Saturn is approximately 6 × 107 meters. Use your answer from Part A to estimate how many times greater the radius of Saturn is than the radius of Earth. Show or explain how you got your answer. Enter your answer and your work or explanation in the space provided.
  • Part C. The radius of a lacrosse ball is approximately 0.032 meter. Estimate the radius of a lacrosse ball, in meters, by expressing the radius as a single-digit number multiplied by a power of 10. Enter your answer in the space provided. Enter only your answer.
  • Part D. Use your answers from Parts A and C to estimate how many times greater the radius of Earth is than the radius of a lacrosse ball. Show or explain how you got your answer. Enter your answer and your work or explanation in the space provided.

An example of an English Language Arts constructed response (2017 MCAS, 8th Grade) is:

This question is a text-based essay question. Write your essay in the space provided in your Student Answer Booklet. Your essay should:

  • Present and develop a central idea.
  • Provide evidence/details from the passage(s).
  • Include correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Based on To Kill a Mockingbird and A Part of the Sky, write an essay explaining the similarities between Walter Cunningham and Robert Peck. Be sure to use information from both excerpts to develop your essay.

If you would like to see more examples of test questions, you can look here. If you would like to see examples of student work and scoring guides, you can also look here.

CERAt Putnam Ave., in order to support students to answer these questions, we have worked to incorporate the C-E-R strategy into our teaching. C-E-R stands for Claim-Evidence-Reasoning —all of the elements that students need when they are formulating or analyzing an argument.

To support our goals around constructed response:

  • English and Math teachers have students work on a constructed response every month.
  • All teachers have students frequently work on constructed response in class and post student work in display cases on a rotating basis.
  • All teachers work on helping students to make their thinking visible and developing the skills necessary for reasoning—reading, annotating, debating, finding evidence, error analysis, asking questions, conducting research, etc.
  • All teachers spend common planning time looking at student work, data, and dilemmas connected to C-E-R and reasoning with the purpose of adjusting instruction to meet the needs of the students we are serving.

How can you help?

  • Ask your student to share with you what they are writing about in school. They should be able to tell you something in every class, including specialties!
  • Encourage your student to use C-E-R as a framework when trying to convince you of something or when viewing the news or reading an article.
  • Use the language of C-E-R when you talk with your student.
  • When your student makes a claim, ask:
    • “Why?”
    • “How do you know?” or “What evidence do you have?”
    • “Why is this important?”
    • “What makes you say that?”