In the final section of each Praxis PLT exam, you’ll be presented with a series of questions that are not multiple choice. Instead, these questions are constructed response—questions that require a written answer.
Praxis PLT constructed-response questions are based on case histories—documents related to the educational path of a student or to a teacher’s career. Case histories do not exist just on the PLT. In real schools everywhere, various written records are kept on the actions and needs of teachers and students. In this post, I’m going to give you a mock case history, followed by a set of PLT-style questions.
The case history below deliberately imitates the format of the student file that appears in the study companions for both the Early Childhood and K-6 exams form the PLT series. I’m following this format, because individual student case files are frequently consulted in real school settings. You’ll often review files on individual students in your own future teaching career.
To practice for the last section of the Praxis PLT, read the case history below, and answer the questions.
Directions: The case history is followed by two constructed-response questions.
7-year old Joshua has four siblings who are also under the age of 10. His parents work opposite shifts so that one parent is always home with the children. By their own admission, Joshua’s parents report that discipline and structure for the children in their home is “lax.” Mrs. Hebert, a first-year teacher, has noticed that Joshua doesn’t pay attention to teacher instruction and is often not “on-task.” Mrs. Hebert has asked the school guidance counselor to observe Joshua and suggest ways to help Joshua improve his classroom behavior.
Observations: Ms. Hebert’s Class, Sept. 10
Pre-observation interview notes:
Mrs. Hebert emphasizes the importance of being on task in her classroom. She mentions that she has a sign at the front of the room that says “Do what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it.” Mrs. Hebert explains that elementary school classes teach students the discipline they’ll need for more advanced schooling.
Guidance Counselor Classroom Observation: Focus on Joshua Andersen
At the beginning of Mrs. Hebert’s class, she leads the classroom in an interactive mapping activity. Following Mrs. Hebert’s spoken instructions, the 15 students in the room gather in four small groups with printed maps of a neighborhood. Listening to further instructions from Mrs. Hebert, the students use crayons to trace a path from the house in the bottom left corner of the map to the school in the center of the map. The lesson is designed to help students understand the directional words left, right, east, west, north, and south. Joshua doesn’t respond directly to anything Mrs. Hebert says. Instead, he slowly starts to look at his group’s map after one of his teammates asks him to.
Mrs. Hebert looks at Joshua and seems to notice his inattentiveness, but doesn’t say anything. She praises some of the other children for “being on task,” and compliments students who draw very straight lines on their maps. At the end of the activity, Mrs. Hebert waves the bright orange “new activity flag” that she keeps at the front of the room. She shouts “New activity! Everyone return to their desks!” Joshua doesn’t need to return to his desk. Because he didn’t move when Mrs. Hebert told all of the students to gather in teams at one desk, Joshua’s teammates had come to his desk.
Mrs. Hebert then announces that it’s time for a surprise spelling quiz. She hands out test sheets with numbered lines for each word. She then calls out each word, uses the word in the sentence, and repeats the word. For the first few questions, Joshua doesn’t write anything on his test sheet. Then the girl sitting next to him taps on his paper. He realizes he should be doing something. Confused, it takes a few more questions before Joshua understands what he needs to do. Eventually, he looks around at what the other children are doing, and starts to write down the words the teacher is saying.
Mrs. Hebert asks the class to hand their quiz papers forward. Joshua absent-mindedly takes the papers handed to him from behind, but he doesn’t pass them forward until the boy in front of him turns around and asks him for the papers. Joshua leaves his own paper on his desk. Once Mrs. Hebert has every paper except Joshua’s, she walks to Joshua’s desk. Scowling, she quickly and impatiently snatches up his test paper. She sees that he’s only completed half of his answers and sighs heavily. “Joshua….” She says in frustration. Then she returns to the front of the room. Joshua glances at his classmates self-consciously, looking embarrassed. Addressing students around him, he turns his head in several directions and mumbles “Sorry about that.”
Joshua’s spelling quiz is blank until the last five questions, and he hasn’t written his name at the top. His quiz looks like this:
Spelling Quiz, September 10
Mrs. Hebert’s 1st Grade Homeroom
Post-observation interview notes:
Mrs. Hebert says “Joshua has a lot of friends, but they really need to stop telling him what to do. It’s his responsibility to be on-task. When he actually does what he should do, his schoolwork is just fine. See? He skipped most of the words on the spelling quiz, but he got the last four right.”
Directions: Questions 1 and 2 require you to write short answers. You are not expected to cite specific theories or texts in your answers; however, your responses to the questions will be evaluated with respect to professionally accepted principles and practices in teaching and learning. Be sure to answer all parts of the questions.
Mrs. Hebert strongly feels that Joshua needs to pay more attention to teacher instruction and be more “on-task” with his classroom activities. Identify TWO specific actions Mrs. Hebert could take to connect school and Joshua’s home environment for the benefit of his learning.
For each action, explain how that action will benefit Joshua’s learning. Base your response on principles of fostering positive relationships with family to support student learning and well-being.
Review the pre-observation notes in which Mrs. Hebert describes the importance of being on-task and the purpose of elementary school as she sees them.
Explain TWO additional purposes the guidance counselor might suggest to Mrs. Hebert that might give Joshua and his classmates greater motivation to stay on-task and engaged in classroom activities.
For each purpose, explain how Ms. Hebert might modify her instruction to better meet the learning needs of all of her students, Joshua included. Base your response on principles of motivation and learning theory.
How these questions would be graded on the Praxis PLT
Praxis PLT case history questions are scored on a scale of 0 to 2. More details on scoring criteria can be found in the free online study companions for each version of the PLT (page 24 in Early Childhood, page 24 in K-6, page 27 in 5-9, and page 25 of 7-12).
In my next post on this subject, we’ll look at how to get a full two points on both of the questions above, and other similar Praxis PLT short-answer questions. In mean time, consult the study companions and take your best shot at answering these practice constructed-response scenario questions.