Helping Kids Locate and Provide Evidence

Evidence is a keyword which is embedded often in the national Common Core Standards.  The heavy “peppering” of this word should have educators and parents on high alert with regards to how integrated and important evidence is.

How do we help kids develop a mindset of locating and providing evidence?  Here are some ways:

“Read Like a Detective”

Last year, my son, Quinn, (who was in 4th Grade) came home from school and let us know that his class needed to blog about setting.  He stated that they needed to blog three paragraphs about the setting in the book.  I responded, “Three paragraphs?” and he replied, “Yes, three paragraphs”.  So we opened his SSR book and I helped him look through the book for any evidence that we could find on setting.  It looked like this, “Hey look, Big Nate is wearing a coat and hat!  From that we can guess that it is winter.”  We went on and on in this fashion and we were able to produce three paragraphs.  It was pretty fun to achieve.  When we logged onto the blog, other kids were entering three sentences versus three paragraphs (which made more sense because they were just learning to blog and learning about setting).  It did, however, give us the experience of “Reading like a detective” and “Writing like an investigative reporter”.

At the training on Common Core Standards that our school district provided, a woman in a video which was shown mentioned “Reading like a detective” and “Writing like an investigative reporter“.  Her suggestion made me remember the above experience with my son.  In addition to reflecting on our “setting blog”, I also reflected on our high school students.

High school is a pretty cool developmental age.  The students have developed a strong knowledge base and teachers can really build upon their existing knowledge base.  In areas where the students have greater interest (maybe their Element) they even feel like experts.  Their knowledge on particular subjects often does surpass the knowledge most others have attained.  This often brings along a tiny problem when they are allowed to choose their own topic for research.  They are asked to research expert opinion to support their claims (most likely their thesis statement) and there is always a group of students who resist locating research because they so desire to share their own knowledge which has been previously accumulated.  We, then, need to explain to the students that true research requires the synthesis of knowledge which they need to  gather.  True research asks that they gather it by locating a variety of reliable materials (in the form of books and/or articles, videos, interviews, etc.) and searching for supporting detail and evidence within multiple resources to extract.  They take that extracted information and organize it into their outline and then begin to synthesize the information in conjunction to their own thoughts to create a strong paper.  This example is a more sophisticated example of “Reading like a detective” to be able to “Write like an investigative reporter” however, it is not any less important.  We need to provide building blocks as students develop in order for the student to create the mindset of “reading like a detective” and “writing like an investigative reporter”

Identifying Process

When I was a student, math problems were more outcome-based than it is for students today.  Today’s students need to explain how they arrived at a mathematical conclusion.  We have Honors Algebra students demonstrate this process using PaperSlide videos (seen in the video above.)  Today’s students need to identify process a bit more in depth in science, also.  Our middle school does a project with sixth graders in which the students do research, but the grading focuses more on the students’ identification of how they tackled the research process.  It is so important that our students can identify process.  The process illuminates the evidence for students allowing them to better understand the “why?” and this allows them to make greater connections to other areas.

Providing Evidence while Speaking

I have twins who are in first grade.  My girls are being taught very well by their school about bullying.  They are very “in tune” to bullying and each girl likes to report when a bullying incident has happened.  Luckily my girls have never witnessed a bullying incident which goes beyond a comment about someone not being someone else’s best friend anymore.  When they talk to me (or when my son talks to me about other things), I am starting to encourage them to back up their statements with evidence and I help them by expanding on their thought.  “He called me dumb” and I can help put it in perspective with evidence “How well does he know you?”,  “Do you get good grades?”, “Do we ever see that your mind is strong by the things you think and say?” “Do you think you are dumb?”  Additionally, with my son it looks like this, “I didn’t swim well today.”   This can turn into “I didn’t feel as fast” or “my breathing was not as smooth”  I have begun to ask for more detail.  I am hoping that this can get them in the mindset of being more supportive of the things they say using evidence.

Whether it is writing or speaking, it is important that people of all ages can provide evidence to support their claims.  I am happy to see this standard embedded into the national Common Core Standards.  I believe that these new standards are more specific than past standards and serve as a useful guide to teachers and parents to help students learn in more dynamic ways.

For Common Core Standards videos


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