Our new favorite sayings during reading class are “Cite your evidence!” and “You must PROVE your answer!” I can’t claim to have any magic , but I do have some new posters that I’ve been using in my class to help give my students a nudge as they are trying to formulate their written answers.
With state testing, students are often asked to cite evidence to support their answers to questions. Sometimes they get stuck before they even get started!
What I’ve discovered with my students is that they have learned how to find the answer in the text (yep – we’ve been practicing that quite a bit and I will have some new products coming out to help!!), but they can’t seem to get the answer down on paper. I’ve seen them write “Proof is . . . .” and “Here is the proof.” I’d like them to be smoother when citing evidence, so I introduced them to some writing stems.
Writing stems are really helpful in giving students a starting place when citing evidence from a text. Citing evidence is difficult for many students because, even when they are able to find the evidence in the text, they aren’t sure how to put it into words. These mini-posters and small individual task card sized cards eliminate the uncertainty and give students confidence.
When I first introduced the stems to my class, I gave them a short nonfiction passage to read. I kept it short because I planned to have them focus mainly on the writing, rather than comprehension of a difficult text. After we read the passage together, I modeled how to answer a question using one of the writing stems.
After reading the card and the example, we practiced wording the answer in different ways. I wanted them to realize that there is more than one correct way to write their answers.
On the second day of modeling, I used a nonfiction article about golden snub-nosed monkeys (which is part of a new product that will be coming out soon!) and wrote the following question on the board: “Explain two facts that you learned from the text.” (Yes, I know it’s an easy question – but once again, my focus is on the writing!) I made sure to state all of my thoughts out loud so that my students could follow how I put my thoughts together and organized them for writing.
Modeling is KEY to teaching this concept to students. They will watch and imitate your thinking and writing. You may find that you need to teach students how to quote the text directly.
Finally, your students may need repeated practice using the “Connector” stems. They will benefit from seeing some examples of correctly written answers so that you can model your thoughts and writing. They will equally benefit from some incorrect examples which will allow you to discuss what is wrong and why.
Connector stems are what I call the types of writing stems that are dependent upon the preceding sentence. In other words, the sentence that comes before it lays the foundation for what comes next with the stem. Some connectors include the word “this,” which would refer to what is being discussed in the previous sentence.
Citing evidence is an important part of the Common Core standards, and even if your state does not follow the CCSS, it is still a much needed skill for good readers.
In my humble opinion, writing stems provide confidence for students and give them a starting point for writing their answer.
As with any new strategy, students need repeated practice with the new skills, and they need reinforcement and feedback. With practice, their answers get better and better.
As always, if you have any questions, just only need to ask! I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. How do you teach citing text evidence?