Exercise: Choosing Evidence

Lesson Plan for Choosing and Using Evidence
Objective: To help students find the best evidence to support their claims and to use their
evidence productively.
Total Estimated Time: 50 minutes.
Assignment Underway: You can do exercises on finding and analysing evidence at different
stages in the writing process and for almost any essay.
1. Have a conversation with your class about what counts as evidence (this may be different for
your specific discipline than it is for mine). (10 minutes)
2. When students are first introduced to a reading, present the students with a thesis or claim and
ask them to go through the text looking for the best piece of evidence to support that claim. (7-10
3. Have them freewrite or brainstorm on their piece of evidence. They should try to come up
with as many things to say about that piece of evidence as they can (they should focus on the text
they’ve extracted, not move to generalizations). (5 minutes)
4. Ask students to share their evidence. Have a discussion about the nature of their examples.
Have they extracted enough or too much of the text? Should their evidence be quoted or
summarized? Have people chosen different examples? Have them debate the merits of their
choice drawing on their freewrites. (20 minutes)
5. If you have time left, you might have students work in pairs or small groups to determine
other ways their evidence could be interpreted. Is their interpretation the strongest? Why?
Or, have students return to the text to find the best piece of evidence to refute the claim or thesis
you’ve provided. How would they handle this evidence in their papers?
Plan B: If students have already written a draft, ask them to go through their own or each other’s
papers marking evidence and analysis in different colors (you might have already done this in a
workshop. Ask students to bring marked papers back to get more out of the exercise). Have
them look at their own drafts and determine the ratio of evidence to analysis. Do they provide
enough evidence for each claim? Enough analysis for each piece of evidence?
Working together, students should look at each piece of evidence and ask if it is the best possible
choice. Has the author provided enough or too much of the text? If there’s a quote, is it
necessary? Or would a summary of the idea be better? (and vice versa).
Working on their own texts, ask students to extract a piece of evidence (especially one without
much analysis) and freewrite or brainstorm for 5-10 minutes, extracting everything possible from
it. Can they work some of the ideas from the freewrite back into the paragraph to get more out
of their evidence?