Monday, December 5, 2011

Writing Lesson: Using Signal Phrases To Introduce Evidence

This mini-lesson is one in a series of upcoming lessons on teaching students to write arguments that integrate evidence from multiple sources to support their claims.
Learning Goals:
Students will...

  • select evidence from a text to support a claim.
  • use signal phrases to introduce evidence from a text.
  • integrate quotes of key words and phrases from a source, embedding them smoothly in their own sentences.
  • use MLA in-text citations to attribute sources.
Guage where students are in learning:
  • Display the learning goals around the room. Give each student four stickers (Each student should have the same color sticker.). Rotate in groups through each wall display, individually placing a sticker to indicate their level of understanding for each learning goal.
    • I can select evidence from a text to support my argument.
    • I can quote key words or phrases from a source, embedding them smoothly in my own sentences.
    • I can use signal phrases to introduce evidence.
    • I can use in-text citations to attribute the source.
  • After each student places a sticker on each of the learning goals, visually assess students' level of understanding. Tell students these are the three learning goals for today's lesson. Explain that they will assess their understanding again at the end of today's lesson. 
Students use cell phones to text a quick response to the question, "Does money make you happy?" Share responses on projector as they're posted live, and lead a short class discussion.

READ:  The New York Times article, "But Will It Make You Happy?"
  1. Have students read silently the first twelve paragraphs, ending with the paragraph that begins, "Amid weak job and housing markets..." Encourage students to read actively--underlining, highlighting, annotating as they read. Tell them to look for the author's point. What point is the author making? What evidence does she use to support her point? Ask students to highlight all the evidence they see that the author uses to support her point.
  2. Let students turn and talk, comparing what they highlighted as evidence, and explaining what they think the author's point is.
  3. Have a few students share out. Ask students what different kinds of evidence the author uses. As they share, create an anchor chart of the kinds of evidence an author can use to support his/her ideas (example, scenario, quotes from an interview, quotes from experts, statistics, etc.).
  4. Point students to the eleventh paragraph. Read the paragraph aloud. Ask students what kind of evidence the author uses. Ask, "How does the author introduce this evidence to the reader?" Point out the signal phrase at the end of the sentence ("...says Marshal Cohen...").
  5. Explain that author's use signal phrases to key readers to evidence they are about to introduce. Explain that signal phrases do two things: 1) Tell WHO/WHAT SOURCE the evidence comes from and 2) when appropriate, show the ATTITUDE or APPROACH of the author.
  6. Model a claim and a signal phrase to show students another example.
  7. Show students samples of other verbs they can use with signal pharse. You may create an anchor chart together, or give them a hand-out such this one.
  8. Point students to paragraph twelve. Ask them what kind of evidence the author uses in this paragraph. Ask, "Where is the signal phrase the author uses to introduce the evidence?" Ask students how the author relates the source of these stats to the reader (by hyperlinking to the source).
  9. Explain that in online articles, hyperlinking is a common way to show the reader their source. When we write more formal arguments, however, authors use accepted guidelines to tell readers where they got their evidence. We'll use MLA.  Show students an MLA example, explaining that they should use a signal phrase to introduce evidence, and an in-text citation to point readers to the exact place they found that evidence.
    • If they include the source info (first item listed in Works Cited), they need only include the page number in the in-text citation.
    • If they are using an online source that does not use page numbers, they may omit the in-text citation altogether, assuming their signal phrase points the reader to the Works Cited entry that will give them complete source info.
PRACTICE: Group Activity
  1. Write the following claim on the board:  Not all Americans are consumed by the obsession to get more stuff.
  2. Have students work in small groups to write one sentence that uses a signal phrase to introduce evidence to support the claim. If necessary, they should include an in-text citation. Groups can write their sentences on big paper to share with whole class.
  3. As students work, circulate to assess how well students are understanding and to help as needed.
  4. Allow each group to share out to whole class.
MORE PRACTICE (if needed):
Use the exemplar argument you've shared with students previously. Point out the signal phrases and MLA citations in the essay, showing them more models of how to introduce evidence and cite it properly.
FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT: Exit Slip & Self-Assessment
  1. Write the following claim on the board: Money is certainly not the source of happiness, but being broke surely doesn't lead to contentment. 
  2. Point students to the next three paragraphs (paragraphs 13-15) from "But Will It Make You Happy."
  3. Have students work independently to read the three paragraphs and select evidence to support the claim. 
  4. On an index card, students write ONE-TWO SENTENCE(S) to introduce the evidence to support the claim, using a signal phrase and an in-text citation if needed.
  5. When students finish, have them turn in the card and return to the learning goal posters, adding a different colored dot to indicate where they are in their learning.
  6. Visually assess whether another lesson is needed by seeing if students progressed in their learning. Quickly read the exit slips to pinpoint specific students who may need small group or one-on-one help to master the concept. During independent work time, begin working with students needing additional help.
  1. Have students work independently to begin drafting their arguments. 
  2. Tell them to make sure to support their claims with ample evidence and to introduce their evidence with signal phrases and include an in-text citation if needed.
  3. Students may want to use a graphic organizer to help them draft body paragraphs of their argument.
  4. Students may also watch this screencast [3:35] to see and hear the concept explained again.

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