Developing Open Response Answers

I spend a lot of time working to develop answers on Open Response questions.  This is tough for many kids, and I think it's important that they pick up a few techniques so they don't go into the tests blindly.  Our reading program (Reading Street) offers a weekly Open Response question to go with the weekly reading selection, which is usually the one I use.  (They call it "look back and write".)
At the beginning of the year, we just talk our way through it.  I'll read the question, and they talk about the story and what happened in the story that goes with the question. We talk about using words from the question to start the answer.  (Example:  Why did John take the green car?  John took the green car because...)  I must say, with practice, most of my second graders are getting pretty good at this!

As the year goes on, the children do more and more of the work without help. 

I think the thing that helps the most is when I read the responses of the best ones.  First, I talk about what the actual answer was. I emphasize what the child did that was done well, and make sure they know what is expected.  I always emphasize the importance of making sure they answered the question thoroughly.  (Sometimes there are more than one question!)

According to my feedback chart, (see this blog entry)  I  highlight the child's name in green if they do what's expected for a second grader.  This lets them know they are on track, and answered the question properly. 
But there's also the possibility of going "above and beyond expectations".  To do this, they have to not only answer the question properly, but they have to add extra information to back up their answer.
Then I highlight their name in purple.  That's much better than a sticker.  They strive to do this.  They go crazy trying to get purple.  It's amazing how many of my lower readers get purple, simply because they know how to answer these questions now.  Plus, they're super motivated to do well.

Even better than getting purple... I'll read their answer to the class. 

Even better... they get to keep a little flag on their desk for a week.  (I have a collection of flags... from various countries)

They would do just about anything for a flag.  I know, it's bribery, but it works!  Plus, it gets them to really think about what they're doing!  I'm pretty impressed with these kids, these questions aren't easy, but they've got the strategies, and do extremely well on these!

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