While my friends who teach middle and high school English are familiar with the term “quote sandwiches,” I fear that teachers of other grades or subjects don’t know what we mean when we bandy it about in conversation.
The truth is, EVERYONE needs to know what quote sandwiches are and how to create them because WE USE THEM ALL THE TIME. Any time someone asks you a question that requires a response other than “Yes” or “No,” you are more than likely answering with a quote sandwich. In other words, you’re making a claim/argument with context (the top bun), providing evidence (the meat and/or vegetable filling), and then giving an explanation (the bottom bun).
No matter what grade or subject you teach, your students’ writing should provide a claim/argument with context, evidence, and explanation. If their writing is unclear, chances are it lacks one of these three elements, or one of the elements is handled ineffectively.
Here’s an example of an EFFECTIVE paragraph containing multiple quote sandwiches:
In an attempt to protect Phoebe, his younger sister, Holden takes on the responsibility of an adult. He wants to be the person to protect innocence. He has witnessed so many others who have let go of their innocence that he desires to help Phoebe preserve her innocence for as long as possible. When Phoebe poses the question of what he would like to be, Holden responds, “I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye… and I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff… I have to catch everybody…. I’d just be the catcher in the rye” (173). Holden shows his desire to save the youth. He particularly wishes to protect Phoebe. Holden is the one to save or catch the youth as they are about to lose their innocence or fall off the cliff. Holden further illustrates this need to preserve innocence while at a carnival. He tries to convince Phoebe that she is not too old for the carousel. He coaxes, “No, you’re not. I’ll wait for ya. Go on” (210). Holden insists that Phoebe get on to keep her interested in youthful activities for as long as possible. He wishes to keep Phoebe off the same path of adulthood that he is forced to travel.
By contrast, here’s a paragraph with NOT ENOUGH CONTEXT:
While Holden is only 16 years old, he starts to handle adult problems. He wants to save everybody, but he can’t. “You know that song, ‘If a body catch a body coming through the rye’? I’d like–” (173). This shows that Holden wants to save children young like Phoebe from the mistakes that he made. He does not want them to lose their innocence like he did. Holden believes that having your childhood is very important. Also Holden is forced to live on his own. “We go to Edmont Hotel, and I checked in” (61). Holden is forced to live on his own because he does not want to be controlled by other people. He wants to set his own rules for himself. Holden thinks that a child should stay a child as long as they can so they don’t have to deal with adult problems.
PS–Lack of context is a very common problem, and we will explore it in more depth in the next post.
Another common problem is that students provide “evidence” that simply restates the facts (which reminds me of those KFC “Double Down” chicken “sandwiches” where the “bread” is simply more chicken; in this case, students say the same thing twice, mistakenly believing that putting it in quotes constitutes more evidence):
Holden also doesn’t know how to handle his problems in a mature way because he wanted to commit suicide. “What I really felt like, though, was committing suicide” (104).
Here’s the bottom line: Quote sandwiches consist of several different moving parts, so they can be challenging to assemble. But effective writing requires them. So we ALL need to work on them.