Analyzing Quotations

Okay, so I need to rectify a statement from Tuesday.  The only thing I dislike more than students incorporating quotations with “As Austen says…” is when students have really interesting quotations, quotations that are appropriate and well-selected, quotations that are well-crafted sentences of prose from an author, but they only write two low-level sentences about the quotations.  However, this is a misnomer.  When I conference with students and give them a quotation they can talk about it extensively.  Okay, maybe not extensively but at least more than 30 seconds.  What this signals is that students have knowledge about the quotation and content but that discussion gets lost in translation.  There is some roadblock that occurs with writing that prohibits them from fully exploring  the quotation to reflect their ability.  As teachers, it is our job to teach the students what questions they can ask themselves to get to the same depth and flow of ideas when analyzing a quotation.  I assume my best drill sergeant voice and make them repeat after me.

1.)    STEP ONE:  Provide the quotation.

2.)    STEP TWO:  Explain the quotation.

3.)    STEP THREE:  Analyze the quotation.

4.)    STEP FOUR:  Connect the quotation.

All right, maybe they need a bit more assistance than that, especially my visual students.  I ask the students to bring two quotations (both of which are embedded within a sentence) and provide them a graphic organizer copied on two pages.

We start by reviewing the activity from the day before that led them to a deep, insightful argument about the “big picture.”  They record this idea in the box in the center of the flow chart.  Then, in the top left corner they need to PROVIDE one of their embedded quotations in 1 sentence.

The remainder of this activity can be completed as a group activity where students pass their graphic organizer to a peer to complete or they can work on it step-by-step individually. 

Now that they have provided the quotation they need to EXPLAIN it.  I stress to the students that everyone interprets a quotation differently and they need to explain to their readers what they want them to know about the quotation.  To do this they might paraphrase the quotation.  I tell them this should be fairly low-level and explicit and should be completed in 1-2 sentences.

Then, in the bottom left-hand box, the students ANALYZE the quotation in 2-3 sentences.  Similar to yesterday’s activity, they might analyze the significance of the quotation, why it is important, what it reveals, etc.

Finally, the students need to return to the main idea of the body paragraph, which is written in the center box.  In 2-3 sentences, I ask them to CONNECT the quotation to their argument about life, society, human nature, etc.  To fully explore this connection they might describe how it connects, the implications of the connection, what it reveals about the connection, etc.

Then, for homework, they complete the activity on the backside of the document by themselves and we share and discuss the concerns and problems they faced the next day.

Just like our conferences, most students are able to complete this task.  This indicates that students are capable of composing 6-9 per example/quotation.  If they are using two quotations they have the potential of writing a paragraph of at least 12 sentences (not including their introductory and concluding sentences not directly associated with their quotations).

For students who need more guidance and structure when writing this activity provides them a how-to guide for analyzing quotations.


  1. Laura Lensgraf says:

    Ladies – If you could provide a student example of the quotation squares graphic organizer- it would be much appreciated!

  2. Deborah Holston says:

    I’m going to try this in my 10th grade class. We are reading “To Kill A Mockingbird”, and it has many great quotes.

    • Deborah Holston says:

      I almost forgot, please send a copy of the graphic organizer to me.

      • Aubrey & Emily says:

        The graphic organizer is literally what is copied/pasted in the post. It is just a box in the center with a line down the middle. I just use microsoft word to create this and it takes only a few minutes. Hope this helps! Good luck with To Kill a Mockingbird!

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