Sometimes, when trying to prove my love Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, I say things like “He is really good,” and “He knows how to throw the ball well,” neither of which really even prove my ideas. If anything, they just keep restating the same principle: he’s a good quarterback (which is 100% true—best in the league, in my esteemed opinion).
The same is true with my students. Unfortunately, when choosing quotations they tend to select ones that just restate an idea already stated. Yet, this doesn’t mean that teachers should just give up and blame it on student immaturity; instead, teach them how to identify quotations that are meaningful and indicate a depth of thinking about a topic, quotations that truly further the idea.
One technique is to basically trick the students into selecting a quotation. For many students, they struggle to find quality quotations because they have an idea that is basically summary. To help them we have to start by asking them to really develop their idea. Before even discussing the embedding of quotations I ask students to complete a flow chart about their idea. The document should have two flow charts running parallel to one another.
They begin the activity only using the flow chart on the left-hand side of the document.
- In the first space I ask them to explicitly describe the topic/main idea of their body paragraph. Typically, this is fairly explicit and summary-based. Because of its explicit nature this will most likely be 1 sentence.
- Then, in the box underneath the topic, I ask them to consider the implicit in a 2-3 sentence response. Now they should begin thinking more analytically and answering questions like: “Why is this important?” “What does it reveal?” “So what? Who cares?”
- Lastly, they need to fill out the final box answering the “big picture” in another 2-3 sentences. Before they begin writing I want them to think how this idea connects beyond the text itself. They might consider asking themselves what the topic/implicit interpretation reveals about life, society, human nature, the individual, etc? I also give them the tip that they might include words like “represents,” “symbolizes,” and “highlights” in their final box. Sometimes providing these words is more helpful for the students than asking the questions because it gives them something concrete to work with.
Then, their homework is to find three quotations to write in the right-hand side of the flowchart. The quotations must support the idea directly across from it. As a result, they will have at least two quotations that are analytical and will need a meaningful explanation of how it connects to the argument. Not only does this give them three quotations of varying depths for their paragraph, it also provides them a more analytical look at their topic.
Tomorrow we will be posting on how the students can provide analysis for these high-quality quotations.
Photo from Hawk Eyes