Simple Strategies for Teaching Evidence-Based Writing

Simple Strategies for Teaching Evidence-Based Writing

Evidence-based writing requires students to synthesize information from provided texts and incorporate this information into a written response.

It improves both reading comprehension and writing skills, and it shows students the connection between the two. Additionally, evidence-based writing is required on almost all standardized writing tests today.

How can teachers effectively teach this important skill? First, it’s necessary to understand exactly what evidence-based writing entails.

Quick Overview: Components of Evidence-Based Writing

There are three main components that students must include in an effective piece of evidence-based writing:

  • Claim/thesis
  • Textual evidence
  • Explanation

Claim/Thesis

Evidence-based writing begins with a claim or thesis statement. This is a brief statement summarizing the main point or argument that will be made in the paper.

For example:

Schools should not require students to maintain a minimum Grade Point Average in order to participate in sports.

Typically, students should also include 2-3 reasons in support of their thesis statement. Why is the thesis true?

The thesis above could be revised to read:

Schools should not require students to maintain a minimum Grade Point Average in order to participate in sports because sports keep students out of trouble and provide incentive to stay in school instead of dropping out.

Each of these reasons can then be used as a claim for each individual body paragraph.

Textual Evidence

After determining a thesis or claim, students must find textual evidence that supports their point(s). They may use quotes or specific details from the provided text(s) as evidence.

Example:

Passage X by John Doe poses the question, “What will happen to students who struggle academically and are booted from sports teams due to their Grade Point Average? What if sports are the only reason these students stay in school?”

Explanation

Lastly, students should explain how each piece of textual evidence supports their claim. Generally, this is the most difficult and easily forgotten step for students.

Explain to students that they must clearly make the connection between their evidence and their claim. What does this piece of evidence mean? How does it relate to the claim?

Example:

Passage X by John Doe poses the question, “What will happen to students who struggle academically and are booted from sports teams due to their Grade Point Average? What if sports are the only reason these students stay in school?” A minimum GPA requirement is dangerous for some struggling students, who may be motivated to attend school solely to play sports. If this incentive is removed, these students are more likely to become frustrated, give up, and drop out of school.

The additional sentences explain the importance of this piece of evidence and indicate how it supports the claim (that students shouldn’t have to maintain a minimum GPA in order to play sports).

Evidence-Based Writing Teaching Strategies

The most effective way to teach evidence-based writing is by providing students with plenty of opportunities to practice. Even if you don’t assign full-length essays often, you can assign students short paragraphs any time you read a text. Pose a question and have students answer with a claim (their response to the question), evidence from the text, and an explanation.

In addition to practice, the strategies below will help your students master the art of evidence-based writing.

Provide Sentence Frames

If your students are struggling to grasp the concept of evidence-based writing, you can provide them with “training wheels” in the form of sentence frames.

Examples of sentence frames include:

I think ________________________because __________________________________________.

One piece of evidence that supports my claim is ______________________________________.

This piece of evidence supports my claim because _____________________________________.

Once students have mastered the basic formula, you can teach them to remove the sentence frames and write more naturally.

Create Opportunities for Peer Feedback and Reflection

Opportunities for peer feedback and reflection allow students to think about what makes a good piece of evidence-based writing, which in turn makes them better writers.

Provide students with an evidence-based writing rubric, and have them evaluate both their own writing and one another’s writing. Putting themselves in the grader’s seat gives students excellent insight into how they can improve their own work.

Don’t Summarize

This isn’t exactly a strategy, but make sure students understand the difference between evidence-based writing and a summary.

Too often, students write essays summarizing the information outlined in each of the provided texts. Remind students that an evidence-based essay isn’t about the texts. It’s about the student’s point of view and analysis; the texts are only there to provide support.

This means no information from the text should be included unless it helps further the student’s overall argument or point.

Require Multiple Drafts

Multiple drafts force students to deeply reflect on their writing. As students make changes to their essays, they notice the impact these changes have on the overall essay. They begin to realize the importance of word choice, sentence structure, and more.

Of course, grading multiple drafts can be far too time-consuming. Instead, you can have students submit their initial draft to WriteLab. WriteLab will suggest changes related to grammar, logic, concision, and clarity. These are key components of good writing, and logic, in particular, is essential to effective evidence-based writing.

Once students have made changes as desired, they can submit an improved draft to you for grading. Not only will this help improve students’ evidence-based writing, but it’ll also make grading easier for you!

Conclusion

Effective evidence-based writing includes a claim, textual evidence, and an explanation of how the textual evidence supports the student’s claim. It is not a summary of the provided texts.

This type of writing is best taught through repeated practice. However, you can also improve your students’ evidence-based writing using sentence frames, peer feedback, reflection, and multiple drafts.

Over time, your students will master evidence-based writing and improve their reading, writing, and critical thinking skills.


Teacher feedback and insights play the lead role in helping students become strong writers. Use WriteLab to help you give feedback faster and assess fairly. 

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