Today we are talking about concrete evidence and commentary, and I used the same PowerPoint as yesterday. They're in the resource section for this section as well so you don't have to click five million things and get lost. You can also find the reference sheet that I gave students for concrete evidence and commentary. Since the sixth grade teachers also use the T3C paragraph format, most students have been exposed to the formula. We're building on what students already know to improve their writing skills, however, there are always students who are new to our building.
Sometimes I start out with concrete evidence and commentary, rather than the topic sentence. Why would I do something crazy like that? Because sometimes it's easier for students to write a topic sentence after the concrete evidence and commentary has been written. I asked students to get out their T3C outline that we started yesterday.
I asked the students to describe concrete, as in a concrete sidewalk. They described it as solid, hard, permanent, which is what concrete evidence is. Concrete evidence is the facts, specific details from the text, quotes, or paraphrased information. It's always from the text, whether the text is fiction or non-fiction.
I then explained that commentary is additional details about the concrete evidence. There are lots of options for how to write commentary. It can be a comment, explanation, a clarification, elaboration, and sometimes opinion. I told students that some teachers, however, would not accept opinion, especially in history and science. I speak very frankly about how students' opinion doesn't really matter in scientific writing. Interpretation, elaboration, clarification, and personality can be included, but pure opinion doesn't really have a place in commentary in scientific or historical writing. Watch this video to hear an explanation of what concrete evidence and commentary are and just how tight they are.
After we finished reading through the reference sheet, students practiced identifying the parts of a paragraph by annotating two paragraphs I wrote about how to make homemade soap. The passage I used is a four paragraph essay, but we focused just on the body paragraphs. You can find a handout with the soap essay.
The first body paragraph was modeled by me and the second paragraph was independent practice. My school uses a consistent color coding system. Topic sentences are underlined in green. Concrete evidence is underlined in red. Commentary is underlined in yellow. Concluding sentences are underlined in green to show the connection to the topic sentence.
I asked for a volunteer to read my paragraph aloud while everyone else followed along. I then did a think-aloud to show what the writer (me) intended by writing the concrete evidence. I explained that the first concrete evidence is a detail mentioned in the topic sentence. The commentary explains that first concrete evidence. The second concrete evidence is also mentioned in the topic sentence and the commentary explains that second concrete evidence. The concluding summarizes the big ideas of the paragraph as well as transitioning to the next paragraph.
Then it was the students' turn to analyze the second body paragraph. I handed out the required colored pencils if students didn't have the required colors (colored pencils or highlighters) of their own. I had my Honors classes read the paragraph independently, but read it aloud for my inclusion classes. I gave them about seven minutes to color-code the parts of the paragraph independently before comparing their answers to the rest of their group's answers. I also told them that this second paragraph was not nearly as good as the first paragraph was.
The final piece of modeling is to show what the author intended. While students were working, I froze the Proxima so I could highlight the parts on the computer. That took only a few moments which allowed me the remainder of the time to wander the room to see what students were doing. We had a conversation about the ratio of concrete evidence to commentary. In the first paragraph, the ratio was balanced, but the ration is extremely unbalanced in the second paragraph. I asked students for suggestions for revision. They suggested that I either add commentary to the second set or edit some of the commentary for the first set of concrete evidence/commentary.
You can find both of the paragraphs in the pictures above in this PowerPoint.
To demonstrate understanding of concrete evidence and commentary, students revisited the paragraph they started on either "King of Beasts" or "Booker T. Washington." The previous day they'd written topic sentences. Today they're writing the concrete evidence and commentary. (Like I said before, sometimes I start with concrete evidence and commentary and then teach topic sentences. You could do it either way.)
To provide additional modeling, I show students two sets of concrete evidence and commentary about Rachel's Challenge, since that was what we originally talked about for topic sentences. I don't know if we'll have this assembly next year, but if we don't, I may need to change my examples. These examples are also in the PowerPoint.
Students used this T3C outline to write their concrete evidence and commentary.