Teach Students How to Use Quotations

Teach Students How to Use Quotations 

Are your students like mine? They plop a quotation in the middle of their writing without introducing it. Or, they choose ones that don't support their points. And don't even get me started on citations...

Since selecting, embedding, and citing quotations are important skills, ones that I expect my students to use multiple times throughout the semester, I created some activities that will hopefully get my kids closer to mastering them - and I'm going to share them with you right now!

The first step is one that, to be honest, I didn't spend a lot of time on in the early part of my career: teaching students how to choose the best quotation to support a point. As a result, I'd get assignments where (some) students embedded and cited quotations properly, but they were ones that did little to back up what they were trying to say. They just weren't taking the time to think through the process - so I created some activities that would get them in the habit of choosing the best quote for the job:

Stand-Up Selection Stations: 
This activity is one that requires my students to really think through the quote selection process. I write a sentence on the top of an 11 x 17 sheet of paper, one that represents a statement a student might make for a particular assignment. Let's say we are working on persuasion. I would write Students should take a gap year before going to post secondary education. Then, I include a passage that a student might find as part of their research on the topic. I repeat this with a different example on each sheet until I have five to eight of them on the wall. The students have to go to each stand-up station and select one sentence from the passage that best supports the point. After, they meet in groups to discuss their selections and come to a consensus on the best choice. Finally, we discuss their group choices as a class. These discussions are rich, as students get to hear the process that others go through to choose quotations - and they get my feedback while we're doing it.

This works really well when you're studying a full class text too. You can write a statement about theme or character on top of the page, add a passage from the text, and have the kids choose a great quotation (Tip: it's best to choose passages that make them think, rather than one with an obvious choice!).

You can grab an editable copy of my Stand-Up Stations here.

Best quote of the class: 
This is a fun activity where my students are learning without really knowing it. We have a section on my front board for the best quote of the class. Each day I assign a group of students to choose the best one, and they write it on the board at the end of the period; when they do, they need to explain to the rest of the students why they chose it. The criteria is pretty broad - it can be the funniest, the most profound, the best use of figurative language, or the one that best sums up our learning for the day. Sometimes it's a quotation from our reading but, more often than not, it's something a student has said. We've had some fun debates and, best of all, the activity gets the kids thinking about the quote selection process.

After they select an effective quotation, students need to embed, cite, and explain it too. And mine were not really good at that.

I realized that the old lecture/worksheet approach was NOT working, so I decided that we needed to get a little more interactive. The stand-up stations are one of the things I started using, but I've got a few more activities that I can share with you to get your students actively engaged in the process.

Before my students use the interactive activities, though, I do have to teach them how to select, embed, explain, and cite. There is a lot of information to give them, and it's hard to find a way to do that without putting them to sleep. I try to make my slideshow as engaging as possible, but I also have a note-taking exercise that is more effective than the traditional method. I believe it’s important for students to write things down – it activates a part of the brain that isn’t when they just read (or ignore) a handout. However, time is short, and often it’s easier and faster to just give students a handout with all of the information.  So I developed some activities that are a hybrid of both methods, allowing kids to write down key information, with some of the notes already provided. My slideshow and these activities are available here. (UPDATE April 2020- now available for Google Drive).

Once students have been instructed on how to use quotations, we use some of the following activities to make this process more interactive and engaging:

An Extended Quote Selection Exercise: 
I use the selection stations and then have students put the the statement and the quotation on I.C.E.  After selecting the best quote, students will work together to make an assertion then introduce, cite, and explain the quotation. Turn this process into a challenge with the best result winning some candy or just the honour of being the ICE Masters. Any time you give kids a change to collaborate on a challenge, the fun factor - and the learning - increases.

Quotation Scavenger Hunts: 
a) When you're doing a full class text, give kids assertions about the text and have them work in groups to find the best quotes to support the assertion. (This could also be done individually if your kids don't work well in groups).

b) You could make the above exercise a little more challenging and have them put it on ICE by introducing, citing, and explaining each quotation that they choose.

c) Give students sheets - either at their desks or on the wall  - with a series of quotations that have been properly and improperly embedded and cited. They have to find the ones that are not done properly and re-write them so they are.

Visual Reminders: 
Once you have taught these skills to your students, use anchor charts or posters that they can refer to in class.

You can grab this one here, or for an added bit of active learning, get your students to create some anchor charts that explain the process of selecting, embedding, citing, and explaining quotations. 

Anchor charts are meant to be created with the whole class, of course, but sometimes I like to have the students create them in groups to share with their classmates later. They aren't as adept as doing it on the spot as we are, but they do enjoy making them and then presenting them to their classmates - and it's a great review that results in some nice visuals for your walls. My instructions are available here. (There are some optional title pages here - it's best to let the kids do the whole design, but sometimes they need a little push to get started).

So there you go. Those are the activities that I use to embed the proper use of quotation is my students' brains. I hope you can find something that you might use with your students too.

I have a pack that is full of lessons and activities that teach kids all about embedding quotations. You can check it out here.

Some of my friends at the Coffee Shop have some resources that focus on using quotations too. Be sure to check them out:

Writing Spotlight: Writing About Quotes, The Daring English Teacher

Literary Quote Analysis, Nouvelle ELA

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