Here’s a step-by-step guide for teaching students to identify textual evidence and support answers to text-based questions with text evidence from passages.
Do you struggle with getting students to find answers in the text?
I have a helpful approach to teaching students how to refer back to the reading and provide detailed written responses.
By working with interactive passages, students can improve their fluency, comprehension, vocabulary, and written response skills. Let me walk you through my step-by-step method.
The importance of finding text evidence
Finding text evidence is a critical skill for upper elementary students.
It’s all about teaching them to go back to the text to support their understanding and views.
Whether students read a short story, poem, or non-fiction article, finding text evidence involves identifying and pulling out information. Then, they use this information to support their answers, thoughts, or opinions.
For instance, if a student states that a character in a story is brave, they should be able to cite information in the text where that character displayed bravery.
Teaching students to find text evidence is about helping them engage with what they read. That includes encouraging them to ask questions, make predictions, and then seek out the parts of the text that support their ideas.
It’s an important skill that boosts comprehension and critical thinking skills. Let’s dig into effective methods of teaching it.
Start by choosing the right passage.
Keep these three important considerations in mind when choosing a passage to teach this important skill:
1. Choose a basic passage.
Selecting the right passage is essential when teaching students how to find text evidence.
I start with a short nonfiction passage that is slightly easier than their current level. If the passage is too challenging, students may become frustrated and not engage with the material.
In this introductory lesson, I have chosen a nonfiction article on Mandrills to help students develop these important skills.
2. Provide success and confidence.
Helping students succeed and feel confident in a new skill is important. That’s why making the reading short and easy to understand is best. We want students to focus on finding answers in the text rather than getting overwhelmed by a difficult passage.
3. Look for reading passages with text-dependent questions.
When selecting a passage for students, choosing one that includes text-dependent questions is important. These questions should have answers that are directly stated in the reading rather than requiring students to make inferences. This is especially crucial when teaching beginners how to identify text evidence.
For students to successfully answer specific questions, they must learn to look back in the reading selection and find the relevant information. They should also be able to underline or highlight the text evidence that supports their answer.
Students may feel frustrated if the proof is not clearly stated in the article. However, more advanced lessons can be introduced once they better grasp this concept.
Introducing important vocabulary
I like to begin each lesson by projecting a passage onto the whiteboard at the front of the room. As we read the passage together, I emphasize the importance of reading the entire passage before making any marks on it.
We read the directions together, and the first instruction was to read the text. This is a great opportunity to ensure that students understand what we mean by “text.” Make sure students understand it doesn’t just refer to a text message on a cell phone.
During our discussion, we clarify that “text” refers to any written words with meaning. It’s also important to mention that the article I’m showing them can be called an article, a passage, a reading, a selection, an excerpt, or simply the text. These terms are crucial because they’re used interchangeably on state tests.
During our discussion of important vocabulary, we also explain the term “text evidence”, which refers to the answers we’re looking for. I make sure to explain the words “proof,” “details,” and “support” so that students fully understand their meanings.
Read the whole article.
By this time, students need to get busy with the article. So first, we notice details about the photo, and then we jump right into the reading.
When I present this lesson to the class, I read the article straight through without discussing anything. This is because I want total concentration on the words of the passage.
Identifying the text evidence
In Step 2, we will underline answers in the reading using a specific color. It’s important we learn this skill because we need to back up our answers with evidence from the text. When we share our answers or discuss the text with others, we want to show that our answers are trustworthy by finding evidence in the article.
To find the correct information, we scan back through the article and think out loud to demonstrate our thought process.
After identifying the correct information, we carefully read and reread the question to ensure we’ve found exactly what it asks.
Sometimes, I would purposely choose incorrect information to help students fully understand the question. Then, we continue making adjustments until we find evidence and details that support the answer.
That’s why choosing a straightforward article is important to keep our focus on the skill.
Once we find the correct paragraph of the text and identify the necessary words, I model how to underline the proof in the right color.
Why the color coding?
Color-coding text is a powerful tool for learners. It not only makes the words visually stand out, but it also allows students to manipulate the text more easily. By quickly identifying the necessary words for a quality response, students become more engaged.
When students read and underline directly on the passage, their focus on the skill is sharpened. Plus, using colored pencils, crayons, or markers to mark up papers makes the process more enjoyable.
Also, it is important to teach students to underline words instead of coloring them directly. Some students are tempted to darken the words too much, making them difficult to read.
Using different colors helps students quickly identify the correct answers, keeping them focused. Students can more easily develop well-written responses when information is easy to find.
Writing the answer
The trickiest part for many students is using the information they underline.
Some students want to simply copy the sentence word for word into their answer, but that doesn’t always work. Sometimes there’s too much information, and sometimes there isn’t enough.
Students must understand that they may need to combine words and supporting details from multiple sentences to complete their answers.
To help students with this, I always model how I organize my thoughts for writing. I believe modeling is the key to teaching this concept effectively. By watching and imitating my thinking and writing, students can learn how to approach this task.
Another important step is rereading the question multiple times before answering. This ensures that students fully understand what’s being asked and can respond clearly and accurately.
What about digital and distance learning?
You can follow the same general lesson guidelines for distance learning or digital learning at school. If you’re using a ready-made resource for Google Drive or already in a digital format, you can easily assign the lesson to students. Many resources are easily differentiated and easily adaptable to meet students’ needs.
The ready-made reading comprehension passages, shown in the images, feature highlighting strips.
Students can drag and drop the highlighting strips onto the passages on their digital devices. And for those who need extra support, teachers can add hints or help right in the margins. If a student doesn’t need the extra help, tips and hints can easily be removed.
For assignments that aren’t digital, it’s no problem.
You can still assign it to students digitally or for remote-distance learning with just a little additional work. These articles will walk you through the process of converting worksheets into digital assignments.
- Read – Converting PDF Worksheets to Digital for Distance Learning.
- Read – How to Assign Just One or Two Slides in Google Classroom.
- Read – How to Assign Students Work with Google Classroom.
Writing stems for citing text evidence
This is the ideal time to introduce writing stems. Writing stems are simply the beginnings of sentences and are also called sentence starters or thinking stems.
Writing stems provide an ideal starting point for students to cite evidence from a text.
We want students to feel comfortable providing textual evidence so answering questions becomes natural. Eventually, students will no longer rely on the writing stems reference cards. Read more about writing stems here.
Students now have the skills and strategies to apply when answering text-based questions.
By the way, these skills are relevant to ALL subject areas. Remind students to use writing stems during science, social studies (history), and other classes.
Related articles to learn more:
Prepare for Testing with Writing Stems – Writing stems help students answer constructed response questions by citing evidence from the text. Learn how to use writing stems in your classroom.
Future lesson Ideas
Additional lessons you may want to include in the future are:
- Direct quotes and indirect quotes (paraphrasing) in constructed responses
- The RACES strategy (or a similar approach) for written answers
- A mini-lesson on evidence versus details
Where can I get the resources used in this article?
Bundle of Primates and Woodland Animals Reading Passages – 17 nonfiction passages to practice finding text evidence from primates and woodland animals reading passages. This set teaches students to find text evidence to prove their answers. Just print and go!
Fall – Autumn-Themed Reading Passages – Your students will LOVE these 20 nonfiction and fiction passages focusing on fall – autumn topics. Students will learn to pull important information and facts from the passages and develop written responses using the key elements.
Winter-Themed Reading Passages – These 20 fiction and nonfiction passages focus on winter topics students will enjoy reading. Students will read the passages and identify specific information needed to answer comprehension questions.
Spring-Themed Reading Passages – Your students will LOVE these 20 fiction and nonfiction spring-focused passages! Students will read the passages and then answer questions by locating the necessary information from the reading and highlighting or underlining it in a designated color – that’s their text evidence.
Writing Stems for Citing Text Evidence Bulletin Board Set – This Writing Stems-Citing Text Evidence bulletin board set contains writing stems (also known as thinking stems) to help students put their thoughts and answers into words. In addition, the writing stems provide a starting place for students when answering text-based questions as they develop and write quality answers.
RACES Constructed Response Strategy Bulletin Board Poster Set – RACES is an easy-to-remember strategy that helps students remember the key components to writing a solid response to questions. When teaching students to write constructed responses – this is a fantastic strategy!