Minds in Bloom is excited to welcome back Sharon from Classroom in the Middle! Her timely post on text-based evidence is sure to help you come up with fresh ideas for teaching your students how to utilize this important skill!
Kids search for facts from texts when they’re doing research. They learn to find and use evidence to back up their claims when writing an opinion piece. But knowing how to make good use of text-based evidence is also important in everyday classroom reading, such as novel studies.
Whenever teachers prepare a novel study, text-based evidence is exactly what they’re working with as they repeatedly go back into the text to find certain details that support a particular story element that they want their students to understand. So, it makes sense that there are lots of good student activities for novel studies that are also based on finding and using text-based evidence. From writing novel studies myself, I’ve accumulated a list of favorite activities for getting kids involved with specifics from the text of a novel that range from context clues activities to activities based on one story element, such as characterization or plot. Students can also focus on text-based evidence in lessons about more difficult elements, such as point of view or tone.
Basically, these activities can be divided into two types, and both are useful to help kids get more out of the novels that they read.
- activities in which students use text-based evidence to support correct answers
- activities in which students use text-based evidence to support their own conclusions about the text
Activities in which students use text-based evidence to support correct answers help kids to take note of important details in the text. They also help kids to understand the various elements that make up a novel. These activities include:
- Annotating the text as they read – For a novel, this might involve only annotating a few specific pages chosen by the teacher. Or, it might involve keeping running notes of interesting details in the story, maybe to use for a writing assignment or for a project later. Kids can do this with sticky notes to mark passages in the book or with a page of notes kept on the side as they read, maybe with categories such as characterization, settings, etc. for grouping their notes.
- A walk-around theme activity – In this one, the teacher posts themes from the novel on sheets of chart paper around the room. Students move around the room from chart to chart, adding sticky notes with bits of evidence from the story to support each theme.
- Group characterization assignment – Small groups of students can search the text for details that show the character traits of one character. This image shows a poster about the character Josie in Patricia Reilly Giff’s novel, Pictures of Hollis Woods. The picture in the middle is a small collage that shows Josie with one of her colorful scarves, her cat Henry, the ocean, and a tree stump for carving. The information around it names character traits and lists one quote, with a page number, for each trait.
- Writing questions – Students “play teacher” by writing questions about the text. To make sure that each question is answerable, they will have to focus on text-based evidence as they write each one.
- Drawing a scene – Kids draw one specific scene from the story. Directions with specifics of what they need to include help the kids to include plenty of details straight from the text. For example, they could be instructed to show an action, to show the expression on a character’s face, and to include background details that show where the scene took place. By adding captions to their drawings, students can explain the details that they included.
- Quotation sorting activity – Give students a number of printed quotations from the story that they can cut out on little slips of paper. Students sort the quotes into categories that you specify.
Activities in which students use text-based evidence to support their own conclusions are great for after-reading projects. Students might use materials, such as the charts or sticky notes mentioned above, or other materials of their choice to demonstrate their understanding of an important feature of the novel after reading the entire story. For example:
- Their conclusions about what type of person a certain character was
- Their own statement of an important theme
- Proof that a certain text structure was used in the novel
- Proof that a certain point of view was used
- Examples of the author’s tone
- Their prediction for what the main character might have done in another situation
- Their prediction for what might happen next if the story were to continue
Presenting a favorite novel to a class can be a big disappointment when some of the students just don’t get into it, but some students need more of a nudge than others to really get involved in their reading. Using activities that require them to look a little deeper into the print can help these students to see what they’re missing. And, it can help students who already love reading to sharpen their skills.
It works both ways. When I’m preparing a novel study, I always see little things that I didn’t notice on my first read as I flip back through the chapters looking for just the right details to include. It makes the story more enjoyable for me, so I make sure to include as many opportunities as possible for students to take note of text based evidence as they’re working on the assignments, too.
If you would like to take a look, check out the preview of my latest novel study for Giff’s novel, Pictures of Hollis Woods.
This guest post is by Sharon, from Classroom in the Middle. Middle graders are the students she loves to focus on as she designs and writes language arts materials for upper elementary and middle school teachers. Read her blog at Classroom in the Middle or visit her Teachers Pay Teachers store on, also called Classroom in the Middle.