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How do you add more elaboration to Yes, MA’AM?

january 28, 2020

The first step to improving students’ constructed-response writing is to make sure they can infer the answer as a reader. The second step is to teach them the basic structure of the Yes, MA’AM formula. After the basic constructed response is established, then I push for more elaboration.

Color-code the constructed response

Highlight all four sentences of a basic Yes, MA’AM response. Use one color (e.g., orange) to highlight the “M” my-thinking sentences; this would include the first sentence of the constructed response and the final explanation at the end. Then introduce a second color (e.g., green) for all “A” author-evidence sentences.

Start with a Simple Response

Point out that this results in two sentences per color. This is a good foundation, however, a strong response would have more of the student’s own thinking, more elaboration, more explanation—more orange.

Whether students quote the “green” initial author evidence or paraphrase it, it must be followed by “orange” elaboration. Evidence can’t stand alone. Consequently, introduce the concept of elaboration and that it comes in follow-up sentence(s) after each sentence of evidence.

Elaborate & explain more

Remembering that the elaboration sentences represent Me & My thinking, teach students how to articulate their thoughts into words. Explicitly provide techniques for elaborating on evidence. These might include:

  • Restating the evidence in more plain terms (e.g., In other words… This means…).
  • Relating evidence with an example or simple scenario (e.g., This is like…).
  • Emphasizing the significance (e.g., This is important because…).
Start with a Simple Response
Identify Ways to Elaborate

In the end, this heavier-orange product includes more of the student’s thinking than the author’s evidence—which is the goal on standardized assessments.

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