The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) is the assessment that all 10th grade students take to demonstrate their proficiency in the ELA subject area. There are four ELA Open Response questions that are scored on the exam which demonstrate the student's ability to comprehend what they've read. Therefore, I incorporate open response questions into every unit that I teach. This is not test prep, but rather direct instruction in an important skill -- being able to create a thesis statement and support it with evidence from the text, both of which are Common Core skills (W.9-10.2 and RL.9-10.1)
Even though we have discussed and have written several open responses since the first semester there are still students in my class who are barely writing an open response with proficiency as well as those who are new to my class. For these reasons I want to review and approach the task of understanding how to write an open response from different directions.
I begin the activator with a discussion activity called Two Minute Talks. The purpose is to activate prior knowledge and focus my students on the topic, Open Response.
During Two Minute Talks, students will share with a partner by brainstorming everything they already know (prior knowledge) about writing an open response. In doing so, they are establishing a foundation of knowledge in preparation for learning new information about scoring an open response.
Here are the steps for the activity:
1. I group students into pairs or those who want to work alone.
2. I let students know that they will each be talking about open response for two minutes (I hear some sighs). They need to select which student will begin first. An easy way to do this is to say something like: "Find out whose birthday comes first in a calendar year." Then tell students that, "That person gets to go second!"
3. I use an online stop watch, http://www.online-stopwatch.com/large-stopwatch, projected on a screen and tell students to begin talking.
4. At two minutes, I instruct students to switch. At this point, the other partner begins talking. It is okay for the second person to repeat some of the things the first person said. However, they are encouraged to try and think of new information to share.
I circulate among the students keeping the discussions on topic We then discuss some of the points students made as a class.
Using the docucamera, I lists student responses from the Activator and address each point made. I also eliminate answers that are incorrect while explaining why, for example, unlike the Long Composition, scored MCAS open responses do not include punctuation, mechanics and writing conventions. This is because even though students need to write the answer to the prompt, it is a reading assessment. I do encourage them to be aware of spelling, punctuation, etc. because the easier it is to understand the more likely they will receive a higher score.
I next review theparts of an open response using color coded P.E.E. template to help students to first make their point(s), then give an example from the text to support their point and finally explain how the evidence supports the point(s) being made.
I first read the prompt needing to be answered and then read the short story that was used in a recent MCAS open response. Next using my docucamera, I show examples of students' previous MCAS open response answers. I first review the Scoring Rubric followed by three responses that were given a score of a 2, 3, and 4 while explaining why each received the score. By finding the evidence from the text that students' used in their responses, students are fulfilling the requirement in the Common Core standard RL.9-10.1.
While we review the samples, I encourage students to share their explanations and thoughts, before I give mine.
Students read a text, and based on the scoring rubric, discuss and come to a consensus a score from 1 to 4 that is given to each student response. They will need to be clear about the score they decided to give because each pair will present their score and reason the class during the wrap up. This skill is addressed in the common core standard SL.9-10.4 which asks students to present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning.
To check for understanding I circulating among students, prompting focus on activity.
Using my docucamera, I project a chart of all the scores that student teams (as well as those who worked alone) give, and as a class we come to a consensus on the correct scores.