Constructed Responses: 3 Reasons They Are Great For Kids

     The Common Core/State Standards Curriculum emphasizes that students be able to communicate higher-level thinking in all subject areas.  Instead of only creating good test takers who can guess the correct answer from four choices, we want to train analytical thinkers who know that they can arrive at answers differently, critique others’ thinking, and who can clearly communicate their thought processes.

     Constructed responses are a powerful tool in this journey.  Responding to a task via a constructed response means that the student literally “builds”, or constructs, their answer through a complete explanation.  Of course, we want any facts used to be correct, but we also want to know that students have mastered basic content concepts and developed complete schema.  

     In a good constructed response, information must be recalled, but it may be put together in a new way.  Students may be asked to recall content,  explain their thinking, tell why they chose that solution path, or explain another situation in which they might have to apply the same content knowledge.  

     Keep in mind that constructed responses are generally different from journal prompts in several ways.  Journal prompts tend to ask about a student's opinion, their experience, or engage their creativity and imagination, so basically there is no wrong answer.  Constructed responses are generally non-fiction in origin and are based in facts, and still engage students in higher-level thinking.  The creativity comes from how the student puts together the information, how they solve the problem, or what direction they take in the solution.  Below are some examples/non-examples.
*Constructed Response: "Spies are generally a part of war time. Tell what spies do and how they operated during The Civil War."
*NOT a Constructed Response: "Name a spy who worked during The Civil War"; or, "Would you have liked to be a spy during The Civil War? Why or why not?" 
*Constructed Response: "Deer, rabbits, hawks, and snakes can all live in the same ecosystem.  Explain how they can all survive while competing for the same resources."

*NOT a Constructed Response: "Tell about a time that you interacted with a deer, a rabbit, a hawk, or a snake."

*Constructed Response: Benjamin said, “Halves are larger than fifths so ½ is larger than 4/5.”  Is he right or wrong?  How can you tell?" 
*NOT a Constructed Response: "Compare 1/2 to 4/5."

     So, why are constructed response activities a useful experience for students?

1. Students must master content.  Whether it is from independent reading, personal research, listening in class, or watching videos the student is responsible for owning the information.

2. Students have a great opportunity to use their creativity. They can explain their own solution to a problem or take a unique direction in their answer. They are not held to a "either you're right or you're wrong" test-type answer.

3. It's easy for a teacher to see if a student has really "gotten" the concepts. Guessing is not going to work here.

     There seems to be a plethora of journal prompts for every topic imaginable.  Just search "journal prompts for ______" and you'll see!  Constructed responses can be a little harder to find.  High stakes, end-of-grade testing has increased the need for students to have practice and assessment opportunities, so I've spent a good bit of time creating math, science, and social studies constructed responses. Consider checking out some of my products with the links below. 

Constructed Responses: Civil War Version
     Let me hear what your experiences are with constructed responses and I'd love some feedback on my products!
Pat McFadyen
Share :

Math Freebies - Which Ones Do You Need?

     Take a look at these math freebies and grab any - or all - that fill a need in your classroom!

     This “upside down” A Little Different Hundred Board is just what students need to develop number sense and see how our number system works with our algorithms! I developed this board to help students connect what they hear with what they see. The board starts with 1 in the lower left corner. It allows students to move up the board as they count higher or add. They subtract and move down the board, more in line with algorithmic directions.
A Little Different Hundred Board

     I use this Order of Operations freebie every single year.  It's a great introduction to the concept and goes really well in math notebooks.
Order of Operations
     This Factoring Fun packet is one of my strongest math tools and the one I've used longer than any other.  It was my original freebie in my TPT store!  I've even had kids tell me they kept their packet and used it in the next grade! 
Factoring Fun!
     This one takes a little preparation, but it's really fun for the kids!  Introduce your students to The World of Real Estate and get super reading, writing, and math practice with this editable activity template. It requires students to have a copy of any real estate booklet from your area and for you to substitute appropriate page numbers for the red numbers in the template.
The World of Real Estate
     Challenge students with these Mixed Practice Word Fraction Problems that cover all four operations. Instead of knowing ahead of time that they will be adding or subtracting, multiplying or dividing, students must use their best critical thinking to decide what the problem is asking before solving.

Fraction Freebie: Mixed Practice Word Problems

     I love Scoot games!  Exponent Scoot makes it easy to get kids up and moving and practicing math with this one-prep activity!

Exponent Scoot!
     Common Core Math word problems that address fifth grade standards can be hard to find, but I love creating them!  These Volume Word Problems address 5.MD.3, 5.MD.4, and 5.MD 5.

Volume Word Problems
      I hope these freebies make the coming days and weeks easier for you and more successful for your students!

Pat McFadyen
Share :
[name=Pat McFadyen] [img=] [description=My purpose is to support YOU and your students with practical solutions and curriculum materials that teach, play, practice, and assess.] (facebook=

Follow @georgialoustudios