Argument Writing Toolkit- Transitioning In and Out of Quotes (Unpack)

Picking up right where I left off from my previous post… We can help students who plop quotes into their writing with no introduction or explanation by teaching them how to both set-up and unpack the quote.  I’ve already shared a strategy for how to transition into quotes.  You can see how to transition into or set-up quotes in my previous post (here).  This post will share how to do the second part, transitioning out of or unpacking quotes.  So, let’s get right to it!

After students set-up their quotes, it is imperative that they unpack it.  When a student unpacks a quotes, s/he explains its significance, connecting the quote to their claim by explaining their thinking.  Super hard and super academic work that many students struggle with!  How many of you have seen student writing that looks like this?

Squeaky is fiercely protective of her brother Raymond.  She always sticks up for him.  For example in the text Squeaky narrates, “But now, if anybody has anything to say to Raymond, anything to say about his big head, they have to come by me.”  This shows that she is protective.

Not exactly the level of scholarly writing we expect from our students….

However, with a few well-placed thought prompts student can really  push their interpretive thinking, allowing their voice to shine through.  That premise is what this small-group lesson is modeled off of.  Especially in an argument essay, we want to ensure that the writer’s voice is heard above all else.

So, I begin with this teaching point:

Teaching Point- Transition into Quotes- Unpack Quotes

Then, I follow that up with an example of my own writing that exemplifies the struggle that I am tapping into.

first try

In this sample, I’ve included very little of my own voice, nor have I explained to my readers why or how these quotes connect to my main point.  But using prompts I can begin to push my thinking and explanation.  I shared suggested prompts with students on a small teaching chart.  (Make sure to look back at my previous post, here, to see some thoughts around prompts- you can find it under the prompt chart image.)

0001 (10)

Using sentence stems to push thinking is really powerful.  For struggling students you can also practice this work orally.  Have students talk out their ideas, and as they talk voice over the prompts encouraging them to say more.  This process of working to say more really allows students to stretch their thinking down new avenues.  You can practice this regularly in the classroom by having students free write in their reading notebooks, using prompts to grow ideas.

During my small group, I modeled this thinking aloud, using the prompts to “say more” about each quote.  I captured some of my work on paper, so that I now have a revised paragraph to show students.

second try

Round out your small group time by giving students the opportunity to do this work with your support.  While other group members are working, have each student orally unpack each quote.  Encourage the student to say more by coaching in with the prompts.  When a solid line of thinking is established, have the student write it down for their essay.  Repeat this process with each group member.

And that’s it!  There is just ONE strategy left.  Check back soon!

Let’s keep the conversation going-


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