students how to develop their responses with reasons and evidence
students revise their responses to Schrag
students complete a mini-workshop for their responses to Schrag's essay
Connection to Course Goals
Discussing reasons and evidence helps
students develop their own ideas with support. It encourages them write more
focused and thoughtful responses, as opposed to a list of unsupported
we’ll discuss one of the three types of response - agree/disagree. We’ll focus
specifically on developing reasons and evidence within a response, because that
is one of the most important skills involved in writing. Writers who produce
effective responses take the time to explain what they think, but they also
show why they think what they do, providing clear reasons and evidence for
the different types of evidence (think back to the PHG)?
might you need to use some evidence in your summary/response essay?
kind of evidence might you use in your summary?
kinds of evidence might you use in your response?
Model Transition to Next
Activity:Most of us understand what evidence is. But often times,
writers mistake evidence for reasons. They think that if they simply tell
readers why they make a claim, it is enough to support that claim. However,
most readers need REASONS and EVIDENCE to feel convinced. In addition to
telling readers what you think, you need to show them why you think it. Let's
look at an example…
how to develop a response with reasons and evidence (10 minutes): The goal for this activity is to help
students distinguish between reasons and evidence. Another objective is to help
them see how reasons and evidence connect back to a writer's response. (Often
times students interpret evidence as "any personal experience that relates
to my topic" which leads to stories and experiences that stray from their
original point). See if students can draw connections between the evidence and
the main idea from the sample (to reinforce the need for focus in a response).
Also, warn them that phrases like "this reminds me of" can lead to
ideas that don't qualify as support.
For this activity, use the sample below or
create your own. Put the example on an overhead and read over it with the
students. Then, highlight the differences between reasons and evidence and ask
students to draw connections between the evidence, the reasons, the response,
and the main idea. Pose questions like, "Is the focus effective? Does the
writer come back to their main point? Where? Could the focus be improved?"
You might use an overhead pen to illustrate these responses. You may also want
to spend a few minutes discussing how reasons and evidence might look different
for other types of response (analytic or reflective).
One Main Idea from Schrag's essay: Schrag claims that opponents of high-stakes
standardized tests are education liberals, "who believe that children
should be allowed to discover things for themselves and not be constrained by
"drill-and-kill" rote learning." He adds that these opponents
fear that the tests stifle students and teachers.
Reaction and Reason
I would have to agree with the
opponents. Standardized tests keep students and teachers from realizing their
full potential. The tests force them to focus on a single, narrow aspect of
learning and they rob them of creative opportunities.
Personal Evidence to Support Reaction
I remember my first art class
in high school. Mr. Venini was the teacher, and before I took his class I
detested school. My grades were poor because I couldn't understand how
geography and vocabulary related to my life. But Mr. Venini's class was
One day, he asked us to close
our eyes and mold a piece of clay into whatever we were feeling. I let my
fingers sink into the clay. I twisted it into a tall, slender shape that meant
"boundless" - like a sunflower. Mr. Venini liked my sculpture, but he
didn't give it a grade. He said it was just an activity for our imaginations. But
after that, I looked forward to art class and I produced many beautiful
paintings and drawings. It was the only class I ever received an A in.
There is no clay on a
standardized test. No place for the imagination. I never took another art class
because my parents wanted me to focus on the ACT. I sat through many test-prep
classes and still did poorly on the exam. I never received another A in school
and never paid much attention in my other classes. I guess I figured that if
"learning" meant "fill in the right bubble," it wasn't
worth my time.
Model Transition to Next
Activity:Let's apply this to your own writing. Please take out your
own response to Schrag (completed for homework).
students revise their responses (20 minutes): Ask students to read back through their responses and to revise
accordingly. Have them reflect on the discussion you just had and ask them to
check for the following (put these on an overhead): Check to see:
you've clearly made a point (agree/disagree)
are responding to a main idea from the essay
you've given a sufficient reason for your opinion (tell us why)
you've provided some well-developed evidence (show us why)
your reasons and evidence are focused - they connect back to the overall point
you’re trying to make
** Tell students that others will be looking
at their revised responses shortly (this will be incentive to stay on task).
Model Transition to Next
Activity:For the remainder of class, we'll do some peer revising
so that you can receive useful suggestions for developing your responses.
students complete a mini-workshop for their responses to Schrag's essay (15
minutes): For this activity, ask
students to work in pairs. Have them refer back to the list of check points
that they used to revise their own responses. Tell them to comment on two
points (from the list), explaining how the writer's response is effectively
addressing these criteria. Then, have them comment on two points (from the
list), explaining how the writer's response could improve on these criteria.
For example, a student may notice that a response provides plenty of reasons
and evidence, but perhaps it lists too many main ideas; so the reader is left
wondering which point the writer is supporting. If time, give students a few
minutes to discuss their responses with one another.
Conclusion:“Today we practiced developing reasons and evidence for
the agree/disagree response essay. Keep in mind that you’ll need to provide
reasons and evidence for any type of response you write. The types of
reasons and evidence will vary, depending on your approach, but the concept is
the same. We will continue with this idea next week, applying it to the two
other types of response.”