Creative Ways to Teach Students How to Find Text Evidence

Using text evidence to support claims does not always come naturally to our students. When students answer a question or write an essay, they often will make a claim, but fail to back it up with sufficient evidence. This is such a critical ELA skill because we require it of students in so much of their writing. The problem is that having students find text evidence isn't always the most exciting task, but there are some creative ways that you can have students practice this important skill.  Below, you'll find my favorite ways to help students go back to the text to find the evidence they need to support their claims.

1. Give Them a Reading Challenge

One way you can get students to practice finding text evidence is with a reading challenge activity. A reading challenge is a short escape-room style challenge that requires students to work together to solve a mystery.

I always begin a reading challenge lesson with some direct instruction to show students how to find text evidence. I explain what constitutes text evidence and show examples of the different types (i.e., direct quotes, paraphrasing, summarising). Then, once they have a foundation, I have them demonstrate their skills with a fun, escape-style text evidence challenge. 


For the text evidence reading challenge I use, students assume the role of an avid explorer and anthropologist who is exploring the jungle in search of fabled Aztec ruins and artifacts. They have to imagine they are walking on a thin path enshrouded by thick, impenetrable vegetation when they discover a pack of snarling and vicious-looking jaguars is on their trail. 

I hook the students students into the challenge by having them read an original narrative backstory that sets them on the path to becoming text evidence hunters! They will examine the writing in an old leather-bound journal to find text evidence to support six given claims about what’s written inside. To escape danger via a gondola, they will need to find out how many pieces of text evidence there are to support the claims, revealing a mystery code. 


The text evidence reading challenge is an extremely comprehensive and entertaining way to refine these skills!

2. Introduce the RACE Strategy 

The RACE method is a reading response strategy formed out of the acronym R-A-C-E, which serves as a helpful mnemonic device to use when formulating a response. A strong response will (R)estate the question, (A)nswer the question, (C)ite evidence, and then (E)xplain the connection. Here’s what this looks like in more detail… 

  • (R)estate: During this part of their response, students should use the question stem to write their topic sentence. This means that they will turn the question asked into a statement. 
  • (A)nswer: After students have restated the question, they should answer ALL parts of the question, keeping in mind that some questions may have more than one part and that they may need to separate the question into two responses.
  • (C)ite: It is at this point that they must support their answers by citing text evidence. This can be an explanation of an event from the text or specific quotations that support their answer.
  • (E)xplain: Finally, they should explain or expand on how the evidence from the text supports their answer. They can also use your own background knowledge here to make connections.

I like to teach students the RACE method to help them see the role that textual evidence plays within a well-constructed response. Then, I give them the opportunity to practice using this response method. My favorite story to use this with is Raymond’s Run by Toni Cade Bambara. Given the story is itself about a race, it makes for a particularly fitting context to learn the RACE strategy! 

3. Have them Solve a Reading Mystery  

Another creative way to get students to practice finding and using text evidence to support their claims is with a reading mystery. For these, students work together in small groups, using text evidence strategies to solve high-interest mysteries, like the Mystery of the Missing Garden Gnome, which you can try for FREE by clicking here. Here’s the backstory…

Mrs. Henry lives alone with her dog in a small South Florida home. Her most prized possession is her garden gnome which she has named Gerome. After returning from groceries one night, Mrs. Henry notices that the garden gnome is missing from her yard. Someone stole Gerome, and your students need to figure out who did it.

Along with the narrative backstory itself, students are given various pieces of evidence to draw on to support their claims about who they think did it, such as a social media profile, a package delivery information page, an airplane ticket, a customer feedback form, a newspaper article, and much more! This makes for a great hands-on way to practice reading between the lines and finding text evidence. It’s also extremely fun—and free!

4. Send Them on a Text Evidence Scavenger Hunt  

A text evidence scavenger hunt is a fun and easy-to-implement activity that will help your students get good at finding text evidence. To do this, simply put up pieces of chart paper around your room, and write a different claim about the text you are reading on each one. For example, if you are reading “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe, one claim could be “The narrator of the story is unreliable. 


Then, in small groups, students will circulate the room with the story in hand. They will need to find text evidence that supports each claim and then write it underneath. Tell students they cannot use the same text evidence that was used previously by another group. This makes the activity increasingly challenging as they get to one claim which has, say, 4 examples of text evidence already used. 

5. Ask Them to Color-Code Responses

Instead of having students write out their responses, we can isolate the skill of finding text evidence with a color-coding response activity. For this, students will be given a list of comprehension questions. To answer each question, they will simply highlight the text where the evidence for the answer is. 


They can color-code their responses by using a variety of highlighter colors and highlighting the corresponding question the same color as the answer. This is just a creative and unique way to practice this skill that will make it interesting for students while also emphasizing the importance of finding text evidence. It's also an activity that takes less time, but still allows students to practice the skill.


There you have it! If you are looking for more creative ways to teach students how to find text evidence, check out the links below.  

Tips for Teaching Students How to Show Evidence from the Text by Tracee Orman

3 Tricks to Get Students (and YOU!) Excited for Poetry

3 Tricks to get your students (and you) excited about poetry


By Tracee Orman

Do your students groan when they think of poetry? Do you? I know that not everyone is excited about poetry and some people really, really struggle with it (including teachers). I have come across so many teachers in my career and as a curriculum writer that really hate poetry so they either skip it or speed through it. But it honestly doesn't have to be that way. 

So what do you do–how do you find excitement so your students will be excited, too? 

If you follow these three tricks, I guarantee you will find your unit more exciting and your students much more engaged!

My first step was to start with SONG LYRICS. Honestly, there was nothing more off-putting to students than having to read pages of verse...unless it’s from a favorite song! Use song lyrics to introduce the basics (rhyme, figurative language and devices, etc.) hooks them. Don’t believe me? Try it out and see! I guarantee your students will be excited to keep going if you start with songs. Besides, what are songs but poems set to music?

How to do it: 

Play a song in class, from start to finish. Let students just listen to it. (If you use a song like Wake Me Up by Aloe Blacc, they may want to get up and dance, and that is OK! Let them express themselves.) 

2. After listening to the song, introduce the lyrics by either projecting them or copying them onto a worksheet. Ask students what they think the song is about and why? Most songs will have a straightforward meaning but some may not. 

3. Next, ask students to identify a rhyme scheme. Again, most songs will have a clear one but some may not have one at all.

4. Have students identify any figurative devices. Obvious ones include similes, imagery, and personification. But also have them look for metaphors, hyperbole, symbolism, paradox, allusion, synecdoche, and onomatopoeia, to name a few.

5. After this deep dive into the song lyrics, ask students if they think the meaning of the song has changed at all. Chances are it will stay the same but maybe they will see it in a different way. This will help them when they start to analyze poems where the meaning is more complex.

You can also use song lyrics to talk about theme. Choose songs that have a similar theme to a poem. It’s much easier for students to practice with theme on a song first then pick out clues to that same theme in a poem. 

If you need help or further guidance, check out my bundle of song lyrics to teach poetry here.

When I transitioned from reading (and listening to) song lyrics to reading (and listening to) poems, I started with short poems. If you start with a longer poem, it may be too overwhelming for them. Stick to shorter poems to keep your students’ attention.

Some great short poems include: 
“The Red Wheelbarrow” and “This Is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams
“We Real Cool” and “Cynthia in the Snow” by Gwendolyn Brooks
“Fog” by Carl Sandburg
“Nothing Gold Can Stay” and “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost
“The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” by Randall Jarrell
“Hope is the Thing With Feathers” or any other poem by Emily Dickinson
“There Will Come Soft Rains” and “I Love You” by Sara Teasdale

Think of these as bite-sized ways of ingesting poetry. Keeping them short makes the analysis not as intimidating. And I found that reluctant teachers actually prefer shorter poems, as well.


Finally, after we analyzed the short poems, I had students write parodies of the short poems. Again, using the shorter format makes it much easier when we are writing poems.

To execute this, use light-hearted short poems (for example, from the list above I would definitely NOT use “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner”). Then have students mimic the poem, line-by-line, with their own “take” on it. Because students are mimicking the poem, they are practicing essential skills in syntax, reinforcing parts of speech, rhyming, and structure. (And CREATIVITY!)

For example, when using a poem like “The Red Wheelbarrow,” keep the first two lines “So much depends /  upon” then have students replace the rest of the poem with another item.

The Sharpened Pencil Poem

You can decide how much or how little of the original poem you wish to include for the parody poems. 

I have an excellent guided presentation (offered in both PPT and Google Slides formats) that provides the short poems (and even some history on the poets) and step-by-step instructions for writing the parody poems. It includes more poems than you may ever need! And I promise it will make teaching poetry so much easier and fun for you!

Numerous teachers have told me these tricks have helped them make an intimidating genre fun. Just remember, you don’t have to love poetry to teach it effectively. 

I hope these tricks are just what you were looking for and you have a successful unit!

Check out these great resources from my colleagues:

Poetry Writing and Analysis by Addie Williams

Poetry One-Pagers by Presto Plans

Poetry Bell Ringers by Nouvelle ELA

5 Ways to Make Poetry Fun & Accessible by Room 213

How to Teach Blackout Poetry by The Daring English Teacher

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