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Constructed Responses Require Textual Evidence

february 23, 2012

Constructed Responses Require Textual Evidence

Constructed-responses are a specialized type of writing that requires explicit, formulaic instruction. Smekens Education utilizes the Yes, MA’AM strategy to teach students the essential facets of the formula.

This simple acronym acts as a frame, ensuring all components are included. Strong responses require a combination of reader inferring (ME) and textual support (AUTHOR). Utilizing the concepts learned during Smekens Education workshops, Break-O-Day Elementary (Whiteland, IN) teacher Sara Ambler crafted the acronym Yes, MA’AM. Each letter of MA’AM reminds students of the type of information required (M=Me, A=Author, A=Author, M=Me).

The first sentence of the response should reword the question and state a personal opinion or direct response to the question.

The first “A” prompts the student to look at what the author said and to include a detail from the text to support his answer. Here are some suggested sentence starters:

  • In the text…
  • The text states…
  • According to the passage…
  • One example from the text…
  • The author states…

The second “A” reminds the student that a constructed response requires multiple supporting details from the author.

  • In the text…
  • The text also states…
  • According to the passage…
  • A second example from the text…
  • The author also states…

The response ends with the student (me) explaining or interpreting the significance of the evidence. One of these sentence starters might help:

  • This shows…
  • This demonstrates…
  • I believe…
  • Now I know…
  • This proves…
Yes, MA'AM Poster

Additional Resources

Samantha Rutherford teaches 6th grade literacy at Stephen Decatur Elementary School (Indianapolis, IN). To encourage her students to include textual evidence in their Yes, MA’AM reading response practice, she had them use their desks as white boards.

Samantha Rutherford Classroom: Yes, MA'AM Reading Responses

Katie Opdyke from Madison Elementary School (Lombard, IL) has used the Yes, MA’AM strategy in her 5th grade classroom. Check out the tweet she shared. Thanks for sharing, Katie!

Katie Opdyke Classroom: Yes, MA'AM tweet

Erica Shadley from Upper Sandusky Exempted Village Schools (Upper Sandusky, OH) shared images from her 8th grade classroom. She used the Yes, MA’AM strategy with her students and provided students with the Finding Author Evidence and the Constructed-Response handouts to complete after reading Two Girls of Gettysburg.

Erica Shadley 8th Classroom: Yes, MA'AM
Erica Shadley 8th Grade Classroom: Finding Author Evidence & Constructed Response

Class Rubric

In addition to practicing the strategies listed above, build a class rubric for well-written constructed responses. Criteria might include the following:


  • Fully addresses the topic/answers the question.
  • Goes beyond the text to say something new (gives an opinion, draws a conclusion, offers a prediction, makes an inference, etc.).
  • Provides at least two different and specific details from the text to support opinion/conclusion/inference.


  • Restates the question in the opening sentence of the response (introductory sentence).
  • Concludes the short response with a sentence that interprets the evidence (explains what the details from the text prove).


  • Avoids pronouns. (Defines all nouns in this short response to avoid confusion.)
  • Writes a complete, coherent response. (The scorer only reads what is written–not the original question. The response must be complete, giving context.)
  • Uses basic conventions (capitalization, spelling, grammar, etc.).

Taryn Saulmon, reading teacher at Monroe Central Elementary (Parker City, IN) used this strategy with her 5th and 6th graders. Check out their silhouette and their Yes, MA’AM response.

Here’s her original tweet.

Taryn Saulmon Inference - Student Example
Taryn Saulmon - Yes, MA'AM Example

Katie Cadle, 2nd grade teacher at Throop Elementary (Paoli, IN) asked Kristina: “My principal has decided to use RACE for constructed response building wide. Do you have a tutorial on that?”

Kristina responded with this Soapbox video and MAAM = RACE downloadable.

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2 years ago

My students are catching on well to Yes, MA’AM! However, the toughest part for them is the second “Me.” Even after modeling and practicing as a whole class and in partners, they are still having trouble “explaining the significance of the evidence.” Do you have any tips for teaching them to explain how the details from the text prove their inference?

Liz Shockey
Liz Shockey
Reply to  Emily
2 years ago

Emily, thanks for reaching out for support on this. Kristina Smekens has some great suggestions for how to help students understand the explanation component of a constructed response. Here’s an article on how to end a constructed response with an explanation. It should be just what you need for your students.

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