Saturday, October 5, 2013

Young Writers Building "Better Answers" {and free kit to share so you can try it, too!}

I can't believe I have left my readers hanging for a month!  I am really sorry, but, I have a really good reason:  I've been sooooo busy teaching a new grade.  The verdict??? I LOVE first grade!  I'll be honest, I am a little overwhelmed with all of the assessment requirements of these itty bitties, but, give me a goal and I will succeed and, therefore, so will they. 
I have so much I want to share about our start up, but I had to FOCUS (hard for me, ya know!) and choose what we have worked THE MOST on over the course of the first month of school.....
working towards Constructed Responses
(in first grade???? YES! They CAN do it)
I didn't realize that "constructed responses" wasn't a term that everyone is familiar with until I posted a question about it on my fan page (with over 11,000 fans!) and you could hear crickets which NEVER  happens with 11,000 teachers as you all know.  One brave person even asked, "What exactly is a constructed response??"  Honestly, 2 years ago, I would have had the same question:  our school really began focusing on the structure of childrens' responses to questions in the 3rd grade and it has trickled down to our kindergartners and up to start building Better Answers (this is the book we are reading as a staff to delve deeper into the constructed response).

So, what exactly is a constructed response?

A constructed response is a type of open-ended essay question that demonstrates cognitive knowledge and reasoning. The answer must be provided using information that can be found in a particular text or other prompt (map, picture, graphic organizer, etc.) and is not meant to demonstrate opinion, but to show how you are able to extract information and use this as the basis for forming a complete answer.

At first, as a kindergarten teacher, it felt really unnatural to make that a piece of my curriculum.  However, once you break it down, you can see that the above definition is the END RESULT that we are working towards.  But, now, as a first grade teacher to the same children I worked so hard on this with last year, it has paid off greatly and shown me that, yes, they are capable of building better answers as 6 year olds (without too much stress!). 

Not only will building "better answers" make them better writers, but it will also make them better readers. 

We are "building better answers" everywhere in our day.  We are doing it orally (a lot! my students know they can't respond with a one word answer now-they must "build" their answer using information from the question).  We also do it during our Reading and Math Workshops ( I try really hard to leave them alone and let them use Writing Workshop as their creative writing time). 

Right now, our focus is just finding the words in the questions to build our answer....so I give them questions to answer....but, questions on pages?? Sorry, that is soooo boring....so, I have added some fun to disguise the learning (a little trick I use to make my students LOVE everything about learning)...he he....

My students last year (who, if you didn't know are my same students this year because I looped with them)...loved pokey pinning and directed drawings, so, I have turned both of those activities into stations during Reading Workshop and just added a question to it that they need to respond to it by restating the question.  Up until now, I haven't been picky about their response, as long as it answers the question in a complete sentence and makes sense.  This past week, I did lessons on using the words in the actual question and so this week coming up, my expectations have risen a bit, they will need to find(by underlining) and use words from the question to build their answer. 

I've created a free sample kit that includes 2 different activities with 3 levels for each one so that you can easily differentiate.  Please keep in mind that, although the main objective of the lesson is to restate the question in your answer, I always provide an extra piece of lined paper (included in this kit) to offer (and require of my higher students) the opportunity to tell me more and move onto the next step of the whys, hows, etc.. because some of them are READY and I would never stop the learning if it was an easy task for them.  The students will be required to underline the parts of the question they will be using in their answer this week and, therefore, spell those words correctly in their answer...Click below to try this freebie and please let me know what you think!  Are you working on this with your students? Are you going to try it?  Can't wait to hear from  you!

 
If you are interested in learning or reading more about Better Answers, check out the book below.  Our school is doing a book study on it!
 



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