Teaching literary analysis is a challenging task, but the skills kids acquire through this exercise are crucial in developing their critical thinking and deepening their reading comprehension abilities. As tough as they can be to teach, analyzing literature and citing evidence should be introduced right after the child makes the transition from learning to read to reading to learn.
There are many strategies that will allow you to make this activity fun, meaningful, and simple to understand. However, with such a plethora of different approaches, it’s impossible not to wonder what’s the best way to go about it.
How to teach kids to cite evidence from literature without overwhelming them or having them lose attention?
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll be sharing how to teach text evidence to kids from different age groups, why that’s important, and how to turn it into a fun, stimulating activity, as well as give you tips on the best activities and strategies you can incorporate in your classroom or home.
What Is Text Evidence?
Literary analysis involves examining all parts of a literary piece of any kind, like a reading passage, a novel, a play, or a poem, and making a critical judgment.
However, in the context of teaching kids, literary analysis takes a much simpler form and can be broken down into five simple steps:
- Finding a Topic
- Gathering Textual Evidence
- Presenting The Main Idea
Today, we’ll focus on how to teach kids to find and mark textual evidence when answering simple questions or writing an essay, depending on their age and education level.
Textual evidence is a piece of information from a text that we use to support our ideas, beliefs, opinions, and arguments. There are two ways in which we can use textual evidence:
- Paraphrasing (inferential text evidence) – using a statement from a specific text to support our argument or answer a question in our own words.
- Quoting (explicit text evidence) – copying the statement from a specific text directly in our answer, so we can support our idea.
Why Are Text Evidence Skills Important?
Teaching children to detect, gather, and use text evidence to support their answers has a lot of benefits that directly affect your kid’s cognitive development and facilitate their educational potential in later years.
Teaching text evidence to kids alters their way of thinking when reading a text. This helps children to see beyond the words they read and understand the narrative and information value the text carries. When they are guided to search for evidence, children learn to filter information, as well as critically approach literature.
The second benefit of teaching text evidence to kids comes from the fact that success in higher-education is heavily dependent on the ability to detect important information from a text and present them in a clear and structured way.
Another thing that text evidence teaches kids is trustworthiness. In all aspects of our life, more or less, we’re expected to back-up our opinions and ideas with facts. Sometimes this is required by law or professional regulations, while most of the time this is an unwritten rule that makes people trust what we say.
Finally, teaching text evidence will help kids be wiser when judging reliability in literature. Creating a habit of searching and incorporating text evidence will give students the ability to easily recognize when the text is poorly written and biased.
How to Introduce Text Evidence to Kids
Now that you know what text evidence is and what it involves, the question is how to teach text evidence to kids.
Obviously, you can’t use complex definitions and abstract concepts as you can easily bore them. Instead, try to explain it with simple words to make it relatable to them.
For example, when teaching students as little as 8 years old, say something along the lines of:
“When we read an interesting story and we want to share it with our best friend, we need to remember the story correctly. But, what if our friend ask us how do we know that? Then, we need to go back to the story and prove to them that we’re speaking truthfully.”
Older children can learn simplified versions of the definitions when accompanied by concrete and relatable examples. However, we believe the best way to catch kids’ attention and organize a memorable class is with a fun and interactive activity.
Tell your students they’re going to be little detectives who are searching for proof. You can use:
- simple anchor charts
- unique reading passages
- colorful highlighters
- and even give them plastic magnifying glasses.
Below, we describe in detail how to structure this type of activity, what you’ll need, and how to accommodate the approach while keeping in mind the children’s age.
- Give Students Reading Passages
Step one is to give children some reading material. It goes beyond saying that all of the reading passages should be suitable for the grade-level of the child.
When teaching first and second graders, you should start with very simple and short stories about specific and relatable things like family members, animals, food, etc. It’s helpful if the story comes with colorful pictures, so you can catch the attention of disinterested kids and kids who have a hard time focusing on a particular task.
Third and fourth graders should feel more comfortable while reading, so you can present them with reading materials that are a little longer and more detailed, but the topic should still be familiar and relatable.
Older students can work on more elaborate texts. You can choose from a variety of topics in the field of geography, science, English, and others that are included in their curriculum.
It’s helpful if you first let them read through the text independently, and then read it together again.
- Explain the Concept of Text Evidence
After all of the kids have read and understood the text, ask your students a text-dependent question. When they give you an answer, ask “How do we know that? Where’s the proof?” This is a very intuitive approach which will prompt children to explain how they got the answer.
Once the children themselves have recognized the text as the source of evidence and have a practical example, it’s time to explain the concept of text evidence in a simple and memorable way.
Briefly explain the main goal of that day’s class and explain the meaning of text evidence through basic concepts like in the example we outlined above.
It would also be helpful if you introduce simple acronyms in a fun and meaningful way. For example, provide a colorful anchor chart with a memorable acronym like RACE (read, answer, cite, explain).
Explain to the kids that they can use RACE when providing text evidence, which is much easier to remember than a definition. After this, go through the meaning of each letter in detail and give practical examples.
Make sure to explain the difference between paraphrasing and direct quotation, as well as the grammatical rules that accompany them.
Encourage kids to take notes. You can even ask them to copy the anchor chart in their notebooks, or even better, give them worksheets on which they can write while learning. We have plenty of high-quality, printable worksheets for text analysis and text evidence you can use.
- Ask Text-Dependent Questions
The third step is to put everything that the students learned into practice.
It’s a good idea to have a variety of text-dependent questions ready before-hand, so you have a lot to practice on. You can either share a list of questions with your students (more suitable for higher grades), or read the questions aloud while students answer independently in their notebooks, and then again together as a group.
Just like the reading materials, the questions should be fact-based, and very straightforward. The main goal is to teach children how to support their answers, not how well they can memorize the text, or how much prior knowledge they have, so keep things simple.
You can ask teenagers more complicated questions, as they should already be familiar with the activity of finding text evidence, and your focus with them should be on inference and developing logical reasoning.
For each question, provide kids with a list of examples on how to start their answer when providing text evidence.
- The author wrote…
- According to the text…
- One example from the text is…
- Based on that, I read…
- On page ___ it said…
- For example…
- Analyze, Highlight, and Mark the Answers
Citing follows some strict standards and rules, which children will learn in their higher education. However, it’s helpful if they have some notion on how to mark the evidence and refer to it in their answers or essays. This will give them a solid foundation upon which they can build later on.
The easiest way to accomplish this is with multi-color highlighters. Ask children to highlight the part of the reading passage where they found their answer and mark it with a number (1, 2, 3….) depending on the question it refers to.
For example, the answer to the first question can be marked in blue and numbered “1”, while the answer to the second question can be marked in green and numbered “2”.
If you’re teaching teenagers and working on essays, then the same principle applies, only the answers are marked based on where they appear in the essay. The first reference should be marked “1”, the second “2”, and so on.
- Revise and Practice Text Evidence
Finally, after going through the questions independently and as a group, revise everything and then practice some more. You can do this at the end of the class, or organize a special class for revising newly learned topics and skills. After all, repetition is the mother of learning.
You can prepare practice materials or use our text analysis teaching worksheets, which are adapted for teachers as well as homeschoolers.
What Do You Think?
Hopefully, this blog post will be a useful resource for organizing an educational, yet fun and meaningful class on text evidence for your child or students. As you can see, we made sure to include strategies on how to approach the topic for kids in different age groups, as well as tips on how to encourage disinterested kids.
Feel free to implement all of our recommendations, examples, and worksheets we’ve shared directly in your next classes or use them as inspiration to create your own. If you need more resources for teaching kids reading, spelling, text analysis, and literature don’t hesitate to browse through our library of topics in those categories – you’ll find tons of goodies! If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at any time.
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