Teaching students how to cite text evidence can be challenging.
In the upper elementary grades, students might already have an understanding of how to find text evidence. But now they’re faced with the challenge of answering text-based prompts and including evidence within their responses.
When teaching fourth grade, I noticed many of my students really struggled with connecting the text to their own writing. I began incorporating some ideas during my ELA block that would help students grasp the concept.
I’m sharing some tips and ideas on how to teach students to cite text evidence.
Colorful RACES Posters
These colorful RACES writing strategy posters help students to answer text-based prompts by using text evidence. Add them to your bulletin board or another easy-to-see spot in your classroom for students to reference!
1. Use Text Evidence Terms in Discussions
One of the best ways to get students familiarized with evidence-based terms is to get them talking! I created a set of speech bubbles containing different sentence starters for citing text evidence. I laminated them and glued a popsicle stick to each one. Then, I added a set to each group caddy. I call these ‘Evidence Sticks‘.
During our whole-group reading block, students are encouraged to use these evidence sticks to comment on different sections of the text. While reading, I pause and ask open-ended questions to lead discussions. Students can choose a stick from their caddy, raise it in the air, and answer the question using the sentence starter on their stick.
The idea of having a fun prop to hold up makes teaching text evidence 10x more exciting and engaging for students.
Using Evidence-Based Sentence Starters during Small-Group Reading
I also used our evidence sticks during small-group reading. Each student in the group reads a paragraph or section of the text. After he/she reads, the student uses the discussion bubbles to comment on what was read. The student sitting to the right will also use the sentence starters to comment on what the student read. This ensures that all students are paying attention to others as they read. (See graphic below)
2. Introduce the Steps on How to Cite Text Evidence in Writing
Using R.A.C.E.S to Answer Questions
One of my favorite reading response and writing strategies for elementary students is the R.A.C.E.S strategy. This acronym guides students through the steps in answering a constructed response question.
R- Restate the Question:
First, students will read the question and turn the question into a statement. They’ll generate a topic sentence for their response using the key words within the question. For example, if the question is “How can citizens help their community?”, students would begin their response by writing “Citizens can help their community by…”
A- Answer the Question:
Then, they will answer the question using their own words and information found within the text. This is the section of their writing where students should be stating their opinion and/or beliefs on the topic. Some questions might contain more than one part. In this step, students are double checking that they’ve answered the entire question and all of its parts.
C- Cite the Text Evidence
This step reminds students to use the text to support their answer. I always tell my students to pretend they are a detective when writing a constructive response. As detectives, they need evidence to prove their case. How does the text back them up?
The ‘C’ in the R.A.C.E writing strategy involves using those sentence starters from the discussion sticks within their writing.
E- Explain the Evidence or Elaborate
This step is always difficult for students. They can find the evidence and write it down, but now it’s time to elaborate on that evidence. They need to prove how the text supports their response. They can use these sentence starters to elaborate:
“This evidence proves that…”
“Because of this evidence…”
“Because the author states this…”
The ‘S’ in RACES is optional. This step includes summarizing the entire response by restating some of the key elements and/or topic sentence of their response.
Color-Coding the Sections of a Written Response
When students complete their writing, they use highlighters to color-code the R.A.C.E. sections in their response. This helps them visualize and make sure that they have included each component. I have them use highlighters to match the R.A.C.E citing text evidence posters displayed in the classroom.
Shop the R.A.C.E.S Posters, Sentence Stems, & Bookmarks
3. Use a Text Reflection Chart to Elaborate on the Text
It’s important that we give students opportunities to truly reflect on what they’re reading. What connections can they make with the text? How is this information relatable?
This two-column reflection is a great way to encourage text connections. Students can select a sentence, picture, or dialogue from the text and use a sentence starter to elaborate on the information. This reflection chart can be used to create an outline for their writing.
Grab the free text reflection template + citing evidence sentence starters PDF below.
Free Citing Text Evidence Printables
Download this free text reflection chart to help students elaborate on text evidence + a list of evidence-based terms and sentence stems to use in their writing!
4. Bean-Bag Toss Game to Lead Evidence-Based Discussions
Here’s a fun activity to engage students in the citing evidence process. During our whole group reading, we’ll randomly pause after a section or page and I’ll toss a bean bag at a student. If they are tossed a:
Red beanbag: They must retell or summarize what we just read.
Orange beanbag: They will repeat what the previous student said + add to it (great way to make sure they’re being active listeners ?)
Purple Beanbag: This beanbag focuses on whatever skill we’re working on that week. For example, if we’re working on cause and effect, students will identify a cause and effect within the page we just read.
This game can be tweaked by having a colored beanbag stand for ‘evidence’. The teacher asks a question and the student that is tossed the beanbag must respond with a piece of evidence from the text.
I hope these ideas and tips make teaching students how to cite evidence a lot easier!