After having the kids repeat the steps for paragraphs 3-6 of Plato’s “Apology” that they’d done for the first two paragraphs (RHA, paraphrase, answer questions, form EBC), we moved on to the next step in the process: MAKING Evidence Based Claims.
At first I struggled with how this was different from the FORMING Evidence Based Claims worksheet. It seemed as if the whole thing was redundant, but it’s actually not.
In the first worksheet, students must come to a conclusion AFTER examining the text closely (“I see this; therefore, I am able to claim that.”) The second worksheet asks the students to make two claims about what they have read first, and THEN go back to look for evidence to support the claims (“I claim this, and this supports what I think.”) It’s a different type of thinking.
Here are two student examples:
Before Alyssa could fill in the claim section of the sheet, she had to think about what she had read. Since we had done a Forming EBC sheet, she already had one claim in mind to work with. However, by the time we got to this sheet, she had changed her claims. These two claims are stronger than her original on her Forming EBC sheet (“Socrates trusts the Gods but finds himself questioning him in terms of him being the wisest or how his devotion to him limits him in life. He is not most in repute but those who are happen to be way to full of themselves.”) Her original claim was too wordy, and it was full of confusing pronoun usage. I asked her to be more concise and precise in making her claims. As you can see, she did make changes, and the claims are easier to support.
Before Ethan filled out this sheet, he had not made a claim on his Forming EBC worksheet; the sheet was blank. Therefore, it gave him no starting point when attempting to make an EBC. As a result, it is evident that he did not clearly understand what he’d read in those four paragraphs because Ethan claims that “Socrates is the wisest man.” When pressed to support this claim, Ethan cites the Oracle’s response to the question of whether or not Socrates is the wisest man: “There is no man wiser” (Plato, line 43). This is where both Ethan AND Socrates got confused.
I drew the little picture on the board (no artist am I), and then I asked the students, “Which of these do you suppose the Oracle really meant?” and I let them argue a bit about it. Then I told them what I thought it meant. By interpreting the Oracle’s words to mean that since “there is no man wiser” (Plato, line 43), then Socrates must be the wisest man on earth, that is jumping to conclusions. What both Socrates and Ethan need to learn is to really pay attention to the words that the Oracle used. What Socrates later learned after going around and questioning different people and testing their wisdom against his and coming to the conclusion that these so-called wise people were no wiser than he was, and he did not consider himself at all wise, then there IS no man wiser than Socrates or any other man for that matter. This kind of “taking things literally” and jumping to conclusions is actually the kind of thinking that this whole “Evidence Based Claims” unit is all about addressing. I may not have been very pleased when I first saw the choice for this unit because I really thought that it was going to be too far above the heads of 9th graders. After beginning to work with it, I am very happy to report that I do think this is an appropriate piece, and I will use it again in the future.
After the students finished their Making Evidence Based Claims worksheets, the next class I gave each student two Post-It notes using two colors (one for “Claim” and one for “Evidence”). I asked them to look over the Making EBC worksheet, and choose the stronger of the two claims they had made and write that claim on their pink Post-It. Then they had to examine the three pieces of evidence they had found to support that claim, and choose the strongest piece of evidence they had and write that on the yellow Post-It. Once they had both Post-Its filled out, we were ready to start.
I started by pulling one students name from the deck of 3×5 cards that I used throughout the year (These cards have their names, contact info, textbook numbers, and I keep track of who worked in what group and also what topics they had for research, what Shakespearean speech they memorized, etc). This is an effective way for me to call on kids so that nobody zones out. It’s also how I call on “volunteers” when no one raises a hand to answer a question. Anyhow, after I called on the first student, he/she read the claim on their pink Post-It and stuck it under “Claim” on the front board. I then asked, “OK, who has the same claim as ___?” Those with the same claim came forward and put their Post-Its next to the one already on the board. I then pulled another card, that claim was stuck below the last one. I once again asked who had the same claim, and the entire process was repeated until everyone had a claim on the board.
Then it was time to deal with the evidence. I read out loud Claim #1 and asked all those who’d made that claim to come forward with their evidence to support the claim (for the first one, five people made that claim, so I had there ended up being five pieces of evidence brought forward). I had the students read their evidence to the class and post it on the board. Once we heard all five pieces of evidence (two of them were repeats, so it actually boiled down to three different quotations), I asked the students to decide which of the evidence provided BEST supported the claim. All those who believed that quote 1 was the best were sent to one corner of the room, those who voted for #2 went to another corner, and the same for quote 3. I then began with group 1 and asked them to support WHY they thought that particular quotation was stronger than the other two. Once I had two responses, I turned to the other groups and said, “Ok, go ahead and tell those folks why YOUR choice of quotation is stronger than theirs.”
For several of the claims, I noticed that we had huge crowds in the corners that had selected the most obvious statements as the strongest support. For example, five students claimed that “Socrates believes he is not the wisest man.” Of the evidence, one of the quotations was, “I know that I have no wisdom,” and most students voted that as the strongest piece of textual evidence. When I asked them how they would expand on the quote to explain how it supports the claim, the best they could come up with was that Socrates came right out and said it. When I told them that it does not leave much room for analysis to go with the obvious, it led to a pretty good argument… and it ended up being between students, not between me and students. As we shared evidence, we also drew lines to connect particular quotes that could support one or more of the given claims. By the time we finished, the board looked like this:
Ultimately what I am trying to do is to get kids to think before they choose quotes to add to their writing as support. I have been telling them since September about the differences between grades of ground beef. You can buy 70/30, 80/20, or 95/5. All can be used to make meatloaf; however, when all is said and done, which pan of meatloaf is really going to end up more of a soggy mess from all the fat? Everyone agreed that using 70/30 ground beef was going to produce more grease and a smaller meatloaf dinner for the family. It’s still meatloaf, it’s still edible, but it just isn’t going to be the same, or as healthy, as the 95/5 variety. That’s how I feel about how they go about choosing supporting evidence for their writing. I have been saying all year, “Give me the meat, not the fat!”