In December I got an email from a teacher who said that the concept of teaching textual evidence and having it stick was overwhelming and too much for her weaker readers. We emailed back and forth and I sent her some resources. To introduce her students to textual evidence, I told her to remove the text and just focus on the skill of supporting inferences with evidence with picture books. For one week she spent 15 minutes each day discussing what it means to make an inference and support it. Then, she modeled it with a picture book.
Today I got an email where she introduced a challenging text to her third graders and they were able to dive right in and back up claims with textual evidence. The lesson? Don’t ‘hide’ skills in the text. Model it and explain it as a skill and then teach students to apply it to text. This changes the accessibility and lets all students have access to the skill set regardless of their reading capabilities. Scaffold in the text and gradually increase the complexity then.
These are the step by step instructions I gave her as she introduced it to her class from a picture book a day for a week and built from there.
- “Now let me show you how you will do this when you read informational text.” Select a short text excerpt (from the suggested list or your own collection).
- “I am going to show you very clearly how I make inferences and back them up with evidence.” Project the text is possible.
- Read the text aloud with students. This is also a dual opportunity to think out loud and annotate to demonstrate how you actually read a text closely. I know it sounds silly to think out loud, but do it! I even suggest using a “cold” text so that students get your natural thought process and see what a reader really should do.
- After reading the text, think a loud and actually say, “So what can I say about this text? What inference can I make? Is there anything I think this author is trying to make me think? What is it? What does this author believe?” Answer these questions out loud or jot them in the margin, reminding students to quietly watch you only.
- Make a few different claims and narrow it down to one. “I got it!” write INFERENCE: followed by your assertion. Now that I have my inference, how can I prove that I am right? What evidence is in the text? What is my textual evidence?
- Underline, highlight, circle, copy sentences, there is no magic bullet. Just isolate all of the parts that support your inference. As you do this, remember to think out loud. Deliberately go to some parts that are NOT textual evidence and let students her your conversation with the text as you choose not to select that as evidence.
- Take all of your information and record it on a large anchor T-chart that can be displayed in the room for later reference. Later, refer to that anchor chart to make it into one paragraph with your inference and multiple pieces of textual evidence.
What are your thoughts about this approach?