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Adapt Yes, MA’AM to Fit Longer Essays

march 02, 2015

Many are familiar with the Smekens format for crafting short or brief constructed responses—Yes MA’AM.

Yes, MA'AM Poster

While working well for short written responses, this same structure can also be adapted to generate longer, extended reading responses. For example, after reading multiple articles on the same topic or issue, students might be asked to write an essay explaining an idea or arguing/persuading a position.

This doesn’t require a new format; use the Yes MA’AM structure that students are already familiar with. Here’s how to supersize it.

Within the introductory paragraph students should identify the topic or issue from the prompt and summarize the texts that they read. In addition, they need to reveal their thesis statement—What are they comparing? What are they claiming? What are they arguing? What are they explaining?

After the introduction, the body paragraphs all utilize the same rhythm, and this is where Yes MA’AM becomes relevant.

Students identify their first reason or inference. Remember the first part of the formula—Me and my thinking. After offering the reason, they offer support by citing evidence from the Authors of those different texts. This will produce multiple sentences. Then, they conclude their point with another Me statement, explaining how the evidence supports the reason.

The difference between an extended-response and a brief constructed-response is the number of inferences students are making. The shorter writings produce a single paragraph. However, the longer essays include multiple reasons or inferences. Each body paragraph includes an inference (M), supported by author evidence (AA), and a concluding statement (M).

These multiple Yes Ma’am paragraphs stack up to create the body of an essay. If this was an argumentative essay, you would include a paragraph for the opposition or a counterclaim. Once all reasons and inferences are completed, students would round out the essay with a concluding statement or section.

One final point—if students are reading more than two texts for a prompt, then they will want to cite evidence from each of them for each body paragraph. This is especially important on standardized assessments when students are required to cite evidence from all articles or text provided. That would mean, if there were three texts, then students wouldn’t have MAAM, but MAAAM.

Great Teacher Comments:
To help her students focus on important details, Sara Williams of Northeastern Middle School (Fountain City, IN) had her sixth graders use their editing glasses for reading. She asked students to annotate the texts they were reading, focusing in on the evidence they needed to collect for good Yes, MA’AM responses.

Sara Williams Northeastern MS Classroom: Student 1 working on Yes, MA'AM
Sara Williams Northeastern MS Classroom: Student 2 working on Yes, MA'AM
Sara Williams Northeastern MS Classroom: Student 3 working on Yes, MA'AM
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Comprehension Playbook
Constructed Responses Require Textual Evidence

Constructed Responses Require Textual Evidence

End a Constructed Response with Explanation


End a Constructed Response with an Explanation

Teach Constructed-Response Writing Explicitly


Teach Constructed-Response Writing Explicitly