“How can I make my day-to-day ELA lessons more aligned to the SBA?”
In my position as an Elementary ELA TOSA, I get asked this question a lot. Although I try not to devote all my energy and attention to test-prep, I completely understand this line of thinking. In the end, we want our students to feel confident and successful in their learning, and a component of that relates to end-of-year assessments.
I’ve spent hours scouring our ELA resource asking myself how I might rewrite this question or adjust that assignment. I thought, maybe if I could take time to think through each lesson with an SBA lens, I could make those adjustments and create some sort of supplemental guide for each grade level….
When I stepped back and realized that approach was neither effective nor time efficient, it was painfully clear that I was going about it the wrong way. What if, instead of rewriting questions, we “rewrote” the way in which our students responded to those questions? A way that more closely aligned to criteria necessary for a full-points when completing constructed responses on the SBA?
I realized then that I already knew of a way. A response strategy, called CER, that I first learned about in the context of science (here and here) and that I’ve seen used effectively cross-content (here). I’m a huge baseball fan, so I liken CER to a team’s utility player. The jack of all trades, the one who’s killer in left but can also fill in at short and turn a mean 6-4-3. What I’m saying is, CER can be used in any subject and in any situation where students are responding or sharing their thinking.
Claim: Your statement or opinion about the topic. This succinctly answers the question that was asked.
Evidence: Details from the text that directly support your claim.
Reasoning: Explaining how the evidence you chose logically supports your claim.
In the core resource questions analysis that I did, I realized many of the questions students were asked to respond to did a great job at prompting them to use evidence:
However, if students were to answer this question accurately while citing relevant details from the text, they’d only be addressing the CE of CER. If we compare a question (and CE only response) like this to the rubric of a similarly constructed question on the SBA, the lack of R (or in this case, adequately explaining their response with clearly relevant information from the text), could prevent them from receiving the full two-point score (why stay at third when you have a shot at home?)
Therefore, we want students to get in the habit of responding with a CE and R, even if reasoning or explaining isn’t explicitly called out in the question:
My thinking is this: if students are systematic in the way that they construct their responses when responding to reading, not only will their responses be thorough during core ELA, but this strategy will also serve them well in the environment of high-stakes testing. No need to rewrite questions or do any of the tedious work I was originally considering. Is this easier said than done? Sure. Just like teaching our students to use details from the text, teaching them the thinking skills behind logically reasoning their response by connecting that evidence to their claim will take explicit instruction, scaffolds, and time. If this is new, maybe start out with pictures or something that is based more on personal opinion and/or relates directly to their own lives (should our school have uniforms?).
How about you? What are your expectations when it comes to student responses, not just in ELA but in other subjects as well? Share your thoughts below!