Section 8: RICA Written Examination Subtest 2
Sample Constructed-Response Questions
This section of the test consists of one focused educational problem and one instructional task. Read each assignment carefully before you begin to write. Think about how you will organize your responses.
Please note that symbols for long and short vowels are not available on the keyboard. If you need to refer to a long or short vowel, write out the description of the vowel (e.g., long a, short e).
Written responses will be evaluated based on the extent to which they demonstrate knowledge and skills important for effective delivery of a balanced, comprehensive reading program. Read each assignment carefully to ensure that you address all aspects of the assignment. Your responses to the assignments will be evaluated based on the following criteria:
Purpose: The candidate demonstrates an understanding of the relevant content and pedagogical knowledge by fulfilling the purpose of the assignment.
Application of Content: The candidate accurately and effectively applies the relevant content and pedagogical knowledge.
Support: The candidate supports the response with appropriate examples, evidence, and rationales based on the relevant content and pedagogical knowledge.
The approximate weight of each of the individual assignments toward the total examination score is as follows:
- Assignment 1: 5%
- Assignment 2: 10%
The assignments are intended to assess knowledge and skills of reading instruction, not writing ability. Your responses, however, must be communicated clearly enough to permit a valid judgment of your knowledge and skills. Your responses should be written for an audience of educators knowledgeable about reading instruction.
The final version of each response should conform to the conventions of edited American English. Your responses should be your original work, written in your own words, and not copied or paraphrased from some other work. You may, however, use citations when appropriate.
You may work on the assignments in any order you choose, but be sure to allocate your time carefully to complete the entire test within the testing session. You may start uppercase NOT end uppercase use any reference materials during the testing session.
Sample Assignment 1
Domain IV—Vocabulary, Academic Language, and Background Knowledge
Use the information below to complete the exercise that follows.
Prior to having students read a textbook chapter on tree classification, a fifth-grade teacher divides students into small groups and gives each group a set of labeled photographs and diagrams of a particular type of tree (e.g., pines), with each group focusing on a different type of tree. The students examine their photographs and diagrams, write down as many characteristics as they can about their assigned tree, and then present their findings to the whole class. As students share their ideas, the teacher writes key words and phrases on the board (e.g., pine trees = have cones, have needles, the needles grow in clusters, the needles are green in both the summer and winter photographs) and also introduces new terminology (e.g., trees that have cones are called conifers). The teacher then conducts a guided whole-class discussion during which students identify characteristics shared by more than one type of tree (e.g., having cones) and sort the trees by these characteristics (e.g., conifers = pines, firs, hemlocks, spruces, cedars, and larches).
Using your knowledge of reading instruction, write a response in which you:
- describe how the teacher can effectively differentiate instruction with respect to this activity in order to address the needs of students in the class who are English Learners; and
- explain why the instructional strategy you described would be effective in addressing the needs of these students and promoting their development of vocabulary, academic language, and/or background knowledge.
Be sure to relate your response directly to the activity described above.
Sample Response for Assignment 1—Domain 4
Since the activity and textbook chapter require knowledge of vocabulary that's not often used in everyday speech (e.g., cones, needles, clustered) and will likely be unfamiliar to English Learners, the teacher should lead a discussion with them beforehand in which the teacher uses the visuals (i.e., photographs, diagrams) to (1) identify and activate their related background knowledge and (2) explicitly teach the more basic but essential academic vocabulary they'll need to complete the activity and comprehend the textbook chapter successfully. The teacher should reinforce new vocabulary by having the English Learners enter the words in their science notebooks along with notes and drawings about the words' meanings. This strategy would be effective in addressing the needs of English Learners because it uses visuals to support their understanding and activate their background knowledge, explicitly teaches essential vocabulary to support their learning and reading, and reinforces new vocabulary through discussion and writing.
Evaluation of Sample Response
This assignment assesses competencies in Domain 4. The response fulfills the purpose of the assignment by describing an effective strategy for differentiating instruction for the target students and explaining why the strategy would be effective in addressing their needs. The response reflects an accurate understanding of vocabulary development and effective strategies for differentiating vocabulary instruction for English Learners. Support for the writer's argument is found in a clear explanation of the types of words that should be the focus of the differentiated lesson and how best to teach these words in order to support the students' reading and learning.
Important Notes About Assignment 1 (Domain 4)
The Examinee Task in Assignment 1 may ask candidates to describe a strategy for differentiating the given activity for students in the class who are advanced learners*, struggling readers*, English Learners, OR students with special needs (e.g., a student with a learning disability). A successful response to Assignment 1 will reflect an understanding of strategies that are appropriate for differentiating reading instruction for the specific group of students identified in the Examinee Task.
*Since Assignment 1 assesses competencies in Domain 4, the term advanced learners in this Examinee Task refers to students who are advanced in vocabulary, academic language, and/or background knowledge, while the term struggling readers refers to students who are experiencing difficulty learning to read because they lack prerequisite knowledge and skills in vocabulary, academic language, and/or background knowledge.
Sample Assignment 2
Use the information below to complete the exercise that follows.
A first-grade teacher is assessing a student's reading comprehension of a story that he reads fluently and accurately by having the student retell the story. The story is printed below.
Pam is at school. She plays a new game called "Red Light Green Light." A girl tells her how to play the game. First, Pam has to run as fast as she can. She likes to run. When she runs fast she can feel the wind on her face. Next, the girl says, "Red light!" Pam has to stop. She must stand still. Then the girl says, "Green light!" Now, Pam can run again. She runs fast. Pam likes the new game. She wants to play it with her friend Rosa after school.
After the student reads the story, the teacher asks him to "tell me the story in your own words." Printed below is the student's oral response.
It's a story about some girls. One girl is named Pam. She doesn't know how to cross the street.
The teacher then asks a targeted question to try to prompt the student to elaborate on his response. Below is the student's response to the question, "How do you know that Pam needs to learn about crossing the street? Tell me as much as you can remember."
Because she doesn't even know about red lights and green lights. How red is for stop and green is for go. I think she's a little kid. And this other girl bosses her around. Pam wants to run in the wind, but the other girl makes her stop. She yells, "Red light!" and then Pam stops. I think the other girl tells her about crossing the street when the cars stop. So, she learns about it.
The teacher completes the assessment by asking the student, "What else do you think Pam will do?" The student responds:
Maybe Pam will tell the girl to stop bossing her around.
Using your knowledge of reading comprehension, write a response in which you:
- identify one reading comprehension need demonstrated by this student;
- describe an instructional strategy or activity to help address this need; and
- explain why the strategy or activity you described would be effective for this purpose.
Sample Response for Assignment 2—Domain 5
The student demonstrated difficulty with literal comprehension, which led to his making incorrect inferences. Since the student read the story aloud “fluently and accurately,” his difficulty is probably not caused by inaccurate decoding or lack of fluency but rather by a lack of attention to what he was reading. Therefore, the first thing I would do is have the student reread the story.
If after rereading the student still misses the main idea (that the girls are playing a game), I would use think-aloud and modeling to teach self-questioning as a comprehension strategy. To begin, I'd read aloud the first couple lines of the story, pausing periodically to ask a few questions, which I'd answer myself. Since the student's primary difficulty is with literal comprehension, I would focus on literal questions (e.g., Where is Pam? What is she doing? Who is she with?). Then, as I continue reading and questioning, I’d have the student answer my questions. Finally, I’d encourage him to continue reading while I help him ask and answer his own questions. As a follow-up, I’d have him practice this self-questioning strategy out loud with other passages while I monitored him.
This strategy would be effective in improving the student's literal comprehension because it models and reinforces a technique he can use to monitor his own literal understanding as he reads.
Evaluation of Sample Response
This assignment assesses one or more competencies in Domain 5. The response fulfills the purpose of the assignment by discussing the student's reading need in literal comprehension, describing an effective strategy for addressing the student's need by promoting his use of self-questioning during reading, and explaining why this approach would enhance the student's comprehension. The writer accurately identifies the student's literal comprehension need, as well as consequences of that need (incorrect inferences). The writer also demonstrates understanding of the interrelationships between decoding, fluency, and comprehension and that rereading a text enhances a student's fluency and comprehension with respect to that text. The writer then goes on to demonstrate knowledge of an effective strategy for enhancing the student's literal comprehension by using think-aloud and guided practice to promote his use of self-questioning. The writer supports the response with relevant, accurate details (e.g., regarding types of questions to use when modeling self-questioning for literal comprehension, the importance of giving the student follow-up activities for practice) and a clear rationale explaining why the strategy described can be expected to improve the student's literal comprehension.
Responses to the open-ended assignments are evaluated based on the following criteria. Focused educational problems and instructional tasks are rated on a three-point scale.
|Purpose||The candidate demonstrates an understanding of the relevant content and pedagogical knowledge by fulfilling the purpose of the assignment.|
|Application of Content||The candidate accurately and effectively applies the relevant content and pedagogical knowledge.|
|Support||The candidate supports the response with appropriate examples, evidence, and rationales based on the relevant content and pedagogical knowledge.|
Scoring Scale: Focused Educational Problems and Instructional Tasks
|Score Point||Score Point Description|
The "3" response reflects a thorough understanding of the relevant content and pedagogical knowledge from the applicable RICA domain.
The "2" response reflects an adequate understanding of the relevant content and pedagogical knowledge from the applicable RICA domain.
The "1" response reflects limited or no understanding of the relevant content and pedagogical knowledge from the applicable RICA domain.
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