Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Teaching Students to Construct Written Response to Text!

Welcome friends! It's Dianna here with your today from Sassy, Savvy, Simple Teaching! Today I am talking about constructing written responses and why it is important!
Written response is viewed as the highest level of comprehension because students are able to communicate in writing their learning and viewpoints. With this assessment format students are forced to demonstrate the extent of their knowledge. Having students explain their thinking is an assessment that is more valuable to teachers. Most importantly, teachers can provide constructive feedback to students and confer over it to improve students abilities rather than the use of a multiple choice assessment.

Whether your students are ready to construct written responses or not, YOU SHOULD still model frequently! Even if you have little ones that are not ready to write, still do it! Little learners are sponges and will soak up bits and pieces each time. You always want to set the bar high and continue modeling for students!

Modeling should be done through: Writing Aloud, Shared Writing and Interactive Writing.
During instruction use the "I Do", "We Do" methods!
I do: Modeling followed by discussion.
We do: Practicing written response together with input and assistance from students.

Steps for Constructed Response:
1) Understand the prompt/question.
2) Restate the Question in your answer.
3) Provide a general answer to prompt/question.
4) Go back into the text to find evidence of your answer.
5) Provide text evidence to support your answer.
6) Wrap up your response with the final piece of information to support your answer.
7) Review your answer by re-reading it to yourself.

Below are 2 examples from working with a group of 1st grade students. We have implemented written response at the end of our guided reading lessons each week. I begin with a think-aloud of understanding the question. From there I move into the deconstruct and reconstruct method using students thoughts of word meanings in the question as we break them down. We re-read the question multiple times to gain a better understanding. These responses are guided and shared based on student input. Students also show others where they find information in the text when responding, which is another process I value. I color code the responses to help students with answering all parts of the question.

10 Effective Tips to Implement:
1) Help students understand the purpose for writing by modeling think-alouds on paper.
2) Model your mental process of constructing written responses using think-alouds.
3) Use open-ended questions or question frames from oral conversations in written format so students are more comfortable responding.
4) Use written prompts from oral conversation in written format so students are more comfortable responding.
5) Teach students the academic vocabulary of the standards orally and in written format so they understand what the question is asking them to do.
6) Model for students the deconstruct and reconstruct strategy to help comprehend the question itself.
7) Color code the question parts and answer parts to match. Students are visual.
8) Model and demonstrate for students during a think-aloud how to go back in the text to find evidence.
9) Teach and model the meaning of the word because to students and how to include it in oral and written responses.
10) Include written responses in your reading block frequently so students have multiple learning and practicing opportunities.

An instructional strategy I continue to use is the deconstruct and reconstruct method. I love this strategy because it allows students to gain a better understanding of word meanings and the academic language in questions. When using this process students learn how to attend to all parts of the question along with understanding the question in student friendly language. We do this every time, all year long. Here are some close ups of some examples:

Remember, a goal of teaching is to teach students to read and write like adults. Continue modeling frequently at the highest level and with written responses. In time you will see students abilities and comprehension grow!

Even though the above examples has been done with 1st grade students, you can apply this to any grade level of students with any content area. It is awesome with math word problems as well as written response questions in Science and Social Studies.

I hope you find this information helpful and don't forget to follow me along my journey by clicking on my blog button at the top of this post!


  1. This is one of the most helpful posts I've seen on The Pack. Thanks so much for the actionable tips and wonderful graphics to help us see the steps in action. I'm sharing this with my readers - fabulous post! :)

  2. Great content but I can't see the pictures. Have tried in a couple of browsers. Wondering what I am missing.