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End a Constructed Response with an Explanation
february 19, 2018
Teaching students to write an efficient and effective constructed response often includes an acronym or formula. Each of the following acronyms includes the same essential pieces:
- Repeat key words from the question and offer an answer/inference.
- Cite textual evidence to support the answer/inference.
- End with an explanation (concluding statement).
Most students (and teachers) have a strong understanding of what should be in the first couple of sentences. However, the final “explanation” sentence is more elusive. To support students, dissect the three facets of this last statement.
- Restate the initial answer/inference. This is often done with a sentence starter (e.g., This shows… This demonstrates… These details prove…).
- Connect the answer and the explanation. Reveal “connecting words” (i.e., transitions) that students might consider. The most popular one is because. Others include so, since, consequently, as a result, and therefore.
- Provide a personal interpretation. The student often inaccurately assumes the reader or teacher defines the answer the same way they do. In attempts to avoid that misunderstanding, the final sentence offers a personal explanation or definition.
When teachers ask students to connect their answers with the evidence, they are really looking for the how. How do you define this concept? The answer to that reveals the connection.
- What do you mean by _____ (the inference)?
- What do these details imply about _____ (the inference)?
- How do these details show/demonstrate ____ (the inference)?
- How are these details relevant to _____ (the inference)?
It’s important to note that students are not actually explaining their evidence in this last sentence. They are explaining their overall thinking or answer.
Ironically, this concluding statement can “save” some kids on standardized assessments. If the answer and evidence seem disjointed, the last sentence can clarify the writer’s thinking. This often results in an “Oh, now I see what you mean!” response from the reader.