Argument Writing Toolkit- Trimming Block Quotes (Ellipses)

My last post outlined one strategy to help students trim long block quotes from their writing pieces (see that post here), and this post will show another.  Remember these strategies are for students who struggle with cutting down a long quote because they feel that their reader needs all the information in the quote.  Therefore, the strategy of omitting unimportant parts from the quote (which you can see here) is not useful for this crop of writers.

I’ll begin by sharing the teaching tool I use to teach this strategy, and then I’ll follow up with a few words of caution about using ellipses.

My teaching point for this work is pretty straightforward:

 

Teaching Point-Trimming Down Quotes- Elipses

The orange sticky flags alongside the teaching point are ellipses I use when modeling.  Students can also use them during the small group to make the lesson a bit more tactile.

Like my previously shared strategies, I start by showing a sample of my own writing that personifies the problem these students have– too much quoted text within a paragraph.  However, I empathize with them about how important I think the quote is and how difficult it would be to cut any part of it because it ALL seems so important.

IMG_5698

I explain to the students my thinking–how in this example, using ellipses would be the best strategy to use as opposed to paraphrasing because of the way the quote is comprised of a long list.  When reading this quote, my audience can easily get bogged down and lost in the list.  As a writer, I made the decision that although all the details are important, my audience will get the gist of what I mean if only a few are listed.

Next, I talk through my thinking of which part of the quote I would omit and replace with ellipses.  I model how to strike out that section and then I replace it with an ellipses sticky.  This way students can visually see the editing moves being made.  I, then, followed that up with a clean version incorporating the change.

Teaching Tools- Trimming Down Quotes- Elipses

Notice how the proportion of quoted text to my own writing is improved with the use of ellipses.  In my first try, the quote takes up about one third of my paragraph!  That’s not enough of my voice.  My second try, however, has a much better balance.

As always, this small group is rounded out with a time for students to try this work in their writing pieces with me coaching in.  I usually let them work for a few minutes, while I scan or walk the room, then check back in.

A word of caution about using ellipses.  You have to warn your students that ellipses, when used incorrectly, can alter the meaning of the quoted text.  So as writers, they need to stay true to the author’s original intent or emphasis.  For example, look at this example of an original quote (highlighted in yellow) and use of ellipses (on the pink sticky):

Teaching Tools- Trimming Down Quotes- Elipses Extension

Notice how the writer misused the quotation.  By eliminating the beginning and end portion, the meaning of the entire quote is skewed.  The quote is actually pointing out how non-concussed players had impaired brain functioning, but it can easily be manipulated to seem like it is showing how concussions lead to impaired brain functioning.

It is important that we warn students of this when we are teaching the use of ellipses for trimming down block quotes.  I usually have students ask themselves a question to make sure that they are staying true to the original intent of the quote:

Does this keep the essence of what the author was trying to say, or does it change it?

Try this strategy out!  Let me know how it goes!

There are only two strategies left.  Follow to see the rest!

Let’s keep the conversation going-

Lindsay

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