Once students have had some practice in distinguishing between argument and evidence and in matching arguments with RELEVANT evidence, you can move on to Step 3: Given arguments, students must support them with their own relevant evidence and explanation.
Although students should now have some sense of what we mean by “relevant” evidence, they may not know what “good explanation” looks like or why it’s even needed. So, we need to take time to explain why EXPLANATION is necessary. Simply listing facts does not connect the dots for the reader. We have to explain how our evidence supports our arguments. Conceptually, students can understand this idea if you provide an example they can relate to, like what they have to do to convince their parents to let them go to the movies (i.e., explain why they deserve to go).
Another way to illustrate this point is by going back to The Falling Man (mentioned in this earlier post and explained in more detail on the TLC “Comprehension 101” page). Remember, we went through the following comprehension steps:
ORIGINAL TEXT: The man fell down.
PARAPHRASED: He collapsed.
INFERENCE: He must have been sick.
Of course, between paraphrasing and inference, we asked the question “WHY did he fall?” In this case, “He must have been sick” is one potential inference. But the truth is, if I were listening to someone who reached this conclusion, I’d ask for evidence–“How do you know?”–and explanation–“Why do you think that?”
The responses in this case would probably be: 1) It doesn’t say anything about him tripping over his shoelaces or anything else; and 2) Since healthy people don’t normally fall down, he must not have been healthy.
The conclusion that “He must have been sick” therefore seems less like a guess and more like a LOGICAL inference. In other words, it makes a lot more sense when you provide evidence and explanation.
Once students grasp the need for explanation, Step 3 also requires students to look at models of arguments, evidence, and explanation—in other words, paragraphs. A good place to start when studying paragraphs is to look at the argument in a paragraph—in other words, the TOPIC SENTENCE.
I will pause here so you can examine the tips and tools on the TLC “Effective Topic Sentences” page. If you are not already a subscriber to The Literacy Cookbook, you can download hundreds and hundreds of documents from this Website with a 50%-off discount subscription by clicking HERE and using this discount code: TLCBOOK50. (PS—To check out some free downloads, go to the TLC “Sneak Preview” page.)