Are your students struggling to use evidence in their writing? Are you preparing for a state writing test, such as MACS or FSA Writes? Whether you are teaching DBQs or paired passages, teachers can use the TEACH method to break down the writing process. The TEACH acronym is easy to remember, and with some practice students can really improve their evidence-based writing.
In my classes, no matter the grade level, students would get overwhelmed trying to include evidence in their writing. It just seemed like too much work. Make no bones about it, using evidence from multiple sources is a lot of work. We need to teach students to work smarter not harder. In general, students see the writing process as read, maybe plan, write, and if there is time edit. As teachers, we need to break that down into even smaller chunks. We also need to be specific as to how much time they should be spending on each piece. In general, the majority of time should be spent understanding the reading and planning/organizing their writing. The longer they spend getting organized the less time the writing will take. Here is my recommendation:
As I discussed in this post, students must first spend the time close reading the articles or documents. If students don't understand the reading, they won't be able to write about it. I would start teaching this process by focusing on reading strategies. Once students master comprehension, then they are ready to begin writing with evidence.
Focus on the Essay Topic
The T in TEACH stands for the topic sentence. I also apply it to the topic of the writing prompt. How many beautifully written essays have you read that had nothing to do with the question asked? I have read gobs and gobs, and it is very demoralizing for the student when it happens. During this time, students should:
- reread the prompt. I teach students to highlight or underline the prompt.
- rewrite the keywords at the top of their planning space.
Identify the Evidence in the Reading
The E in Teach stands for evidence. It is important to pull out the evidence from the reading, because it makes it easier to plan the essay. When I teach students to read documents, they summarize main ideas in each paragraph (see that previous post). That makes the E and A sections much easier, because students only have to look through the main ideas. This is much less stressful, especially for your students with ADD, learning disabilities, or low readers. In this section, students should:
- determine which main ideas connect to the topics. I make a chart with the document names at the top, and just list the main ideas beneath.
- highlight or star any facts that are repeated in the documents.
- strike out any facts that do not directly support the writing topic.
- plan how to organize their essay. Create an outline with a topic, evidence, and space to add the analysis.
Add Analysis to the Outline
The A stands for analysis. This piece is really hard for students. In a nutshell, analysis means how does the evidence support your topic or claim. Convince the reader that you are correct. For example, if I say that the Puritan Church affected the development of New England, my analysis would be how it affected it. While adding the analysis, students should:
- elaborate each piece of evidence.
- state how the evidence supports the topic/claim.
Write a Conclusion
The C stands for conclusion. In all honestly, I do not encourage students to spend a lot of time on the topic or the conclusion. I have never found it easy to write the introduction first. Students need to know what their topic is, but they can add the topic statement at the same time as the conclusion. The topic statement should simply state their argument. What are they proving? The conclusion is just a restatement of the topic. Until they are actually writing the essay, I don't worry about adding a deep conclusion. Students should:
- write "conclusion" on the outline to remember it.
- restate their topic/claim.
At this time, students should write their essay using the outline they made. Just a secret, but this is the big a-ha moment for students. They complain and complain about what a waste of time the outline is. However, when you demonstrate to them that their essay is basically written for them on the outline, it is like magic. At this point, I usually say something like, "Now I can write my five paragraphs in less than five minutes." Students will not believe you, so assign a time keeper. On a doc-cam, I place my outline and my writing paper next to it. I talk as I write - I literally am just taking my outline and making sentences. Each Roman numeral indicates a new paragraph. BOOM. Done in five minutes. Teacher = Rock Star This is a life changing moment for many students. If you can get them to believe this, they will continue to do it. I have had kids that I taught in elementary school tell me as adults that they still use this writing system. It works, but you have to prove it to them.
Edit the Essay
The H stands for "High Five" - my way of saying editing. Five fingers, five edits. In Florida, spelling and grammar errors count for almost nothing on the state exam. Does that mean they aren't important? No, but in all honestly if the student runs out of time for editing, it is okay. It is more important that they have solid evidence and analysis. During these few minutes, students should edit:
- capital letters
This system has been very successful for my students. It helped prepare students for higher level classes, such as Advanced Placement courses and International Baccalaureate courses. Once students understood how to chunk the writing process, it became easier. That is why I like the TEACH acronym - it is really easy to remember and implement.
To help you get started teaching text-based writing to your students, I made a freebie for my readers on Outlining. The freebie includes two students pages that explain what an outline is and how it is used, as well as two outline templates. Click here or on the image to download the resource.
If you would like to use the TEACH method, I do have a writing center available in my TPT store as well as paired passages.
If you have any questions, just let me know!