Friday, October 1, 2010

Responding to Text

Recently I have been asked about responding to the open response items on the ELA MCAS. Scoring of MCAS open response has not changed. Some teachers advise students to restate the question as they start to respond and some have heard that a point is lost when this is done. Rather than subtract a point for restating the question, that statement is simply discounted (no points lost). The major misunderstanding that I encounter regarding response to text is the idea that it is a writing exercise as opposed to a comprehension question.

Responding to text requires 4 important cognitive activities:

  • Closely reading the selection, understanding what it is about and sometimes why it is written.


  • Analyzing the question: What am I being asked?


  • Organizing thinking: What do I think the answer is; express that thinking.


  • Support that thinking with ideas from the text; provide evidence.



Items are scored holistically; was the question answered concisely and precisely with the appropriate evidence cited? The answer may be expressed as sentences, bullets, or any way that serves good expression of the answer. Form does not matter; conventions do not matter unless the lack or overuse of them interfere with the understanding of what was written.

We have developed an instructional routine to support proficient response to text: Coaching to Proficiency. I hope this information is helpful.