Monday, November 20, 2017

Supporting Evidence: an Idea for Explicit Thinking and Connecting

Disclosure: this is my current practice attempting to get student to both include supporting details AND to explicitly connect or explain those details' relationship to their thesis or potential answer to their question.

My CP students in 9th grade classes are doing this as of the week of Nov 13th. We'll be starting it in my 9th grade classes the week of Nov 20th. 

This is a huge intellectual leap for many 9th grade students at all levels of instruction. I believe this is true for a number of reasons:

  1. As writers, they believe that if they give an example, especially in the forms of a paraphrase or a quotation, then they have made their case. 
  2. The thinking that goes with their paraphrase or quotation seems so obvious to them that 9th grade student-writers feel like they are being repetitive or using "filler."
  3. The explicit, deliberate, overt connection of their thinking about the quotation to their thesis or question seems so obvious to 9th grade student-writers that they, again, believe that they are stating the obvious and adding "filler."
  4. Students do not understand what they are writing if we assign the topic and we do the thinking to collect the evidence. This can even happen when we guide small groups or whole classes in the collection of evidence. 
  5. Sadly, we see and hear fewer academic arguments where opposite views are expressed, with supporting evidence, comparing like to like. This dearth of models of civil discourse impacts, I believe, our students ideas about what constitutes argument, analysis, and decisions. 
  • I ask students to underline their thinking so that it is quickly visible to them and to me.
  • I ask students to italicize the CTT (connection to thesis) or CTQ (connection to question) so that it is also easily visible to them and to me. 
  • I use the analogy of an autopsy: in the same way that Ducky, the coroner on NCIS opens up the deceased, and weighs, measures, draws blood samples, examines contents, all in the service of investigating cause of death, we do so with our writing.
  • We'll use a modified version of our BAHS DRAFT school-wide writing rubric to autopsy our own writing, and each others', just to be sure that all the paragraph "organs" are there.
This link at the bottom will take you to:
  • page 1: our BAHS DRAFT Informative / Argumentative writing rubric
  • page 2: a single point version of our BAHS DRAFT Informative / Argumentative writing rubric. I've been experimenting with single point rubrics for a couple of years. The idea is to give students the target--the criteria for MEETS. The blank column on the left can be for the evaluator to jot notes when something EXCEEDS. The blank column to the right can be for the evaluator to jot notes when something DOES NOT MEET or is EMERGENT or DEVELOPING. My students like the clarity and visual simplicity of the single point rubric. I've also changed the language to "I" and "my" so that students are reading in the 1st person about their writing and its goals. 
  • pages 3 and 4: Single point rubric adapted for autopsy. The students must actually go through their writing and find, and write, specific instances of their inclusions of the required writing techniques or components. Fair warning: my students do NOT like this one! They have to read their writing, they have to fill out specific examples of how their writing meets the criteria, ergo, they must think. It is WORK, but should avoid handing in drafts as polished products. 

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