Each state that has adopted Common Core State Standards will select an assessment consortium to assess how children are progressing in school. The two options most widely chosen at this point are: Smarter Balanced and PARCC. Each assessment consortium has provided practice test questions and today we will review one of these questions and discuss its potential impact on classroom instruction.
Below is an assessment question from Smarter Balanced grade 4. Smarter Balanced uses two types of assessment questions: Selected Response and Constructed Response.
- Selected Response requires the students to select one or more correct answers.
- Constructed Response requires the students to create their own answer.
Fourth Grade Describe a Character in a Story
Common Core Standard Assessed
4.RL.3 Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).
From Smarter Balanced Scoring Guide
The correct response, option D, receives a score of 1 point.
What do we learn from this item?
This question is designed to assess if students can identify the contrasting personality traits of a character. This item requires students to think back to the actions done by a character in a story, and determine how those actions reflect the character’s personality. This question requires students to understand that personality means character traits. This is not the traditional way that character traits are taught. Most often, character traits are taught as a single personality trait (honest, mysterious, etc.)
How is this concept assessed in other grades?
Alternate ways of identifying, describing, or analyzing characters and their development is addressed in grades K-12 in the Common Core Standards. Smarter Balanced assesses this concept using different approaches and vocabulary. At times, students are expected to select the correct character trait(s) from several answers, and other times students are expected to write their own response using information from the text. Throughout the practice test examples, Smarter Balanced tends to use the word personality.
Suggestions for classroom instruction
Multiple stories should be used that teach the students how to identify multiple character traits in one character. This all should be done in the context of a story. Students should practice using the details or evidence from the story to support a characters personality, keeping in mind that some characters can have more than one trait. Students should also practice writing constructed response answers for character development as well. DataWORKS has created a Constructed Response poster to help students remember the components to include when writing their own answers.