QUOTE SANDWICHES, PART II: Drawing a Picture of “Context”

The Literacy Cookbook COVERAlthough not known as the artist in my family (one brother is an architect, and my sister designs stained glass and beads, among other things), I have managed to learn one artistic concept that helps me when teaching: “negative space.”  This is how it works: if you’re trying to draw a chair, instead of drawing the chair, you draw the space around the chair.  It’s weird, I know, but it works.

This concept came in handy recently as I was working with a class on how to write effective quote sandwiches.  As noted in the previous post, quote sandwiches provide a claim/argument with context, evidence, and explanation.

While talking with the students, I realized that they didn’t know what “context” meant.  It was too abstract, too fuzzy.  Every time I said, “You need to put the quote in context,” they stared at me blankly.  It was like I was saying, “You need to put the quote in blahdeeblah.”  It meant nothing to them.

So I tried some negative space jujitsu on them, and said, “If I walked in here and said, ‘She was upset that he didn’t answer her question about that thing,’ how would you respond?”

They immediately rattled off a list of questions: “Who is ‘she’?  Who is ‘he’?  What was the question?  What were they talking about?  Why was she upset?”

To which I replied: “Exactly.  You wanted more CONTEXT.  It’s the same way with a quote sandwich: you have to anticipate the reader’s questions and answer them with context.”

To which they responded: “Oooooooooohhhhh.”  And we went back to the drawing board.  So to speak.

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About theliteracycookbook

In addition to this blog, I am the creator of THE LITERACY COOKBOOK Website (www.literacycookbook.com) and ONLY GOOD BOOKS Blog (http://onlygoodbooks.wordpress.com/), and the author of THE LITERACY COOKBOOK: A Practical Guide to Effective Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening Instruction (Jossey-Bass, 2012) and LITERACY AND THE COMMON CORE: Recipes for Action (Jossey-Bass, 2014). Check out my Website for more information about my consulting work.
This entry was posted in Context, Evidence, Explanation, Questioning, Quote Sandwiches, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to QUOTE SANDWICHES, PART II: Drawing a Picture of “Context”

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