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  • Writer's pictureScott Cameron

5 Fun Ways Students Find Quotes

Teaching students the value of using quotes in an essay is more important now than ever.  Imagine a politician who doesn’t use facts to back up their plan to help the economy.  Imagine a scientist who doesn’t use evidence in their research.  Imagine a realtor who wants to describe a house instead of showing it to you.  You can’t make an argument without evidence to support it just like you can’t sell a product that doesn’t work.  If we want our students to write a high-quality essay, they need to spend most of their time in class working with the text and finding quotes that they can use to support their thesis. 


Here are five fun ways that students can collect evidence to use in their essay:


1. Reading aloud


Reading the text out loud allows students to really hear the emotion behind the words on paper.  It’s easier to hear Shakespeare than it is to silently read his plays.  In addition to bringing the text to life, reading aloud allows students to write down quotes that stick out to them.  I like to change the pace and volume of the reading to convey the emotion or idea in the passage and allow students to digest difficult moments in a passage.  For instance, I love playing the angry and loud ghost of King Hamlet in Hamlet or the hungry and desperate Magwitch that frightens Pip in the graveyard in Great Expectations


2. Close reading


Another activity that has a ton of benefits, close reading also gives students a chance to write down important quotes.  Students identify literary techniques like repetition, parallel structure, metonymy, and personification and discuss their purpose when close reading.  They observe patterns in punctation or notice the length of sentences.  In To the Lighthouse, Lily uses short sentences before she starts her painting of Mrs. Ramsay, when she is full of doubt but once she gets going, the sentences become longer which reflects her growing courage and confidence.  If students take notes on the techniques in a passage, they can later connect them to larger themes that unfold in the novel once they write the essay. 


3. Scaffolded notes


It’s easier for students to take notes if they have a guide with topics and page numbers to help them organize their thoughts.  Students tend to stay more focused and engaged with whole-novel activities, topics, and questions.  Topic-based activities function as a model for how to structure an essay.  I distribute all handouts with scaffolded notes at the beginning of a unit so they don’t lose a bunch of different sheets of paper.  You can find my whole-novel activities here.    


4. Group work


Students can work in small groups or with a partner to collect quotes related to the same topic and then answer a question.  They will then be ready to verbally present their ideas to the class during a discussion.  This kind of activity allows me to circulate around the room and ask if students need help interpreting any difficult passages.  I will often assign one or two passages to two students so they can feel comfortable before they present their analysis to the class.  Some of my best class discussions happened after I allowed students to independently take notes on around ten passages before sharing out their thoughts. 


5. Presentations and posters


Working in a group to create a poster (think mind map, sketch notes, or one pager) with quotes and interpretations and then presenting their image to the class makes it easy to jot down important quotes.  I use the Genius app to take a picture of a large poster so that I can easily zoom in on what students wrote using the projector.  Many students feel comfortable talking about a quote they wrote down if it’s on a graphic or in a PowerPoint, and it makes it easier for other students in the class to write down the quote if it’s large enough to read in a presentation. 

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how to find quotes

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