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The (OEQ/CRQ) Epiphany

I had an epiphany the other day about open-ended questions (OEQs)–which are now called constructed response questions (CRQs)–and it is changing the way I will assess my students’ mastery of Common Core ELA standards.

In September, I created a rubric for Common Core ELA standard W.4 (in CCSS language, this is the standard that addresses clarity of writing).  I had been using this rubric to grade my CRQs (mostly because this related to my SGO) and it was working out fine…until I started analyzing the kinds of CRQs I was seeing on our school’s quarterly exams.

Here is how it all happened…

My thought (as I was reading over a CRQ): “This question is asking the student about word choice and analyzing its impact on the text, it is not asking the student to write clearly. I don’t think I am grading this assessment correctly…”

My epiphany (after some conversations with colleagues): “HELLO!? You’re grading a question that has students analyzing diction and that is a reading standard (RL.4), not a writing standard.”

Hmmmm…

Before my epiphany, when I wrote a CRQ it might have looked like this:

Determine the tone of the poem.

This question implies not only that one determines the tone of the poem, but that they explain how they figured out that answer. This relates to CCSS number…oh wait.  It doesn’t relate to the CCSS at all.

Now, my CRQs will look more like this:

Determine how the author uses diction to create a melancholy tone throughout the poem. (RL.9-10.4)

This question relates directly to the reading standard I want the students to focus on.  And, of course, it requires a rubric.  Here is what I came up with…

Criteria and Scoring

4

3 2

1

 

Determine the meanings of words and phrases in context of the text

Word meanings are accurate based on the context of the text and a detailed explanation exists as to how the student determined the meaning of the word. Word meanings are somewhat accurate based on the context of the text and a somewhat detailed explanation exists as to how the student determined the meaning of the word. Word meanings are nearly accurate based on the context of the text and an explanation exists as to how the student determined the meaning of the word. Word meanings are not or not very accurate based on the context of the text and no explanation exists as to how the student determined the meaning of the word.
 

 

Determine the figurative and connotative meanings of words used in text

Figurative and connotative meanings of words are accurate based on the context of the text and a detailed explanation exists as to how the student determined those meanings. Figurative and connotative meanings of words are somewhat accurate based on the context of the text and a somewhat detailed explanation exists as to how the student determined those meanings. Figurative and connotative meanings of words are nearly accurate based on the context of the text and an explanation exists as to how the student determined those meanings. Figurative and connotative meanings of words are not, or not very, accurate based on the context of the text and no explanation exists as to how the student determined those meanings.
 

 

Analyze the impact of the word choice on…

(meaning, tone, mood, etc.)

Word choices and how they affect a text’s meaning, tone, mood, etc. are carefully and clearly explained in detail; the explanation shows a deep examination and understanding of words and how they are used. Word choices and how they affect a text’s meaning, tone, mood, etc. are somewhat clearly explained in detail; the explanation shows an examination and understanding of words and how they are used. Word choices and how they affect a text’s meaning, tone, mood, etc. are explained; the explanation shows a shallow examination and understanding of words and how they are used. Word choices and how they affect a text’s meaning, tone, mood, etc. are not clearly explained in detail; the explanation shows shallow to no examination and understanding of words and how they are used.

Notice the rubric is not for writing, but relates directly to the standard being addressed by the question.  This rubric will give me a much more accurate score than my writing rubric because it assesses whether or not the student can determine the meanings of words in context, determine figurative and connotative meanings, and analyze the impact of word choice on tone. It also requires explanations outlining how students determined these factors.

Now, any writing should be assessed for clarity, in which case, the other rubric may come in handy as well:

W.9-10.4 Criteria: writing is clear, coherent, and task-appropriate according to…  

5

 

4

 

3

 

2

1

Development Sequence of ideas is fully developed, writing shows a clear understanding of the prompt, ideas are detailed and fully explained, ideas are supported with clear and compelling textual evidence. Sequence of ideas is developed, writing shows a somewhat clear understanding of the prompt, ideas are explained, and ideas are supported with textual evidence. Sequence of ideas is almost developed, writing shows a limited understanding of the prompt, ideas are somewhat explained, and ideas are somewhat supported with textual evidence. Sequence of ideas is beginning to develop, writing shows a limited to mis- understanding of the prompt, ideas are attempted to be explained, and textual evidence to support ideas is attempted. Sequence of ideas is not present, writing shows a misunderstanding of the prompt, ideas are not explained, and ideas are not supported with textual evidence.
Organization Sequence of ideas is seamless for writing type, structure is logical and effective: Chronological, Spatial, Climactic, Topical Sequence of ideas is appropriate for type of writing,  structure is somewhat logical and effective: Chronological, Spatial, Climactic, Topical Sequence of ideas is somewhat appropriate for type of writing,  structure is somewhat logical and effective: Chronological, Spatial, Climactic, Topical Sequence of ideas is somewhat apparent, but not appropriate for writing task,  structure is almost/attempted to be logical and effective: Chronological, Spatial, Climactic, Topical Sequence of ideas is not apparent, and/or not appropriate for writing task,  structure is not logical or effective.
Style The personality/voice of the writing is seamless according to writing task; diction, syntax, rhetorical devices, etc. are used correctly and creatively. The personality/voice of the writing is appropriate to writing task; diction, syntax, rhetorical devices, etc. are used somewhat correctly and creatively. The personality/voice of the writing is somewhat appropriate to writing task; diction, syntax, rhetorical devices, etc. are used somewhat correctly. The personality/voice of the writing is not appropriate to writing task; diction, syntax, rhetorical devices, etc. are attempted but not used correctly. The personality/voice of the writing is not apparent; diction, syntax, rhetorical devices, etc. are not apparent or not used correctly.
Purpose The purpose of the writing piece is to persuade (effective use of rhetorical devices), inform (effective clarity of structure), or entertain (effective use of voice, language, syntax, etc). The purpose of the writing piece is to persuade (appropriate use of rhetorical devices), inform (appropriate clarity of structure), or entertain (appropriate use of voice, language, syntax, etc). The purpose of the writing piece is to persuade (somewhat use of rhetorical devices), inform (somewhat clarity of structure), or entertain (somewhat use of voice, language, syntax, etc). The purpose of the writing piece is to persuade (attempted use of rhetorical devices), inform (attempted clarity of structure), or entertain (attempted use of voice, language, syntax, etc). The purpose of the writing piece is to persuade (no use of rhetorical devices), inform (no clarity of structure), or entertain (no use of voice, language, syntax, etc).
Audience Intentions toward audience are clear and effective, writing is age appropriate Intentions toward audience are somewhat clear and effective, writing is somewhat age appropriate Intentions toward audience are almost clear and effective, writing is almost age appropriate Intentions toward audience are attempted to be clear and effective, writing is attempted to be age appropriate Intentions toward audience are not clear and effective, writing is not age appropriate

I realize that people like to use a holistic rubric for these types of assignments, but I don’t think they can do justice to the CRQs that will be written to address the Common Core–holistic rubrics are just not specific enough to assess complex standards.  We need to look at the skills students are being asked to demonstrate, separately.  They are, after all, listed as separate skills in the CCSS.

Maybe the key is having a rubric somewhere in between, but I know that from now on, I am going to assess my students on the standard they are being asked to demonstrate. I am going to make rubrics for them such as the ones cited above so that they know what they need to do before they even begin writing a CRQ answer.  To do anything else would be an injustice to them–not to mention, unethical.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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