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Help Students Cite Proper Evidence in Argument Writing

Learn how to help students cite proper evidence.

Students love to argue – with each other, their parents, teachers, etc. However, teaching argument writing can be a challenge for English teachers. How do we help students cite proper evidence in argument writing? 

What exactly backs up their point? 

This is an issue that is especially difficult for struggling students and those who are in special education. However, it’s not impossible – this is something that can be taught! 

This blog post will go over five things that can make a difference in helping students figure out how to cite the correct evidence in their argument writing. These ideas will be helpful for all students but will be more focused on those reading and writing below grade level. 

Help Students Cite Proper Evidence in Argument Writing

Consider Your Students

This may sound obvious – we always consider our students – but when working with students on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), it’s important to understand their academic strengths and weaknesses. 

This needs to be considered if we want to help students cite proper evidence in argument writing. 

For instance:

  • A student reading below grade level may need help pulling evidence out of the text. Try looking at verbal or other methods of evidence identification.  
  • Things that seem logical to some may not be logical to others. Only some things are straightforward for all students. Finding ways to break down the text and the evidence in it is going to be crucial. 

Start By Asking, “How Do You Know That?”

What is argument writing? Argument writing is about stating an opinion and then explaining why you believe this is correct. Let’s start with this when you want to help students cite proper evidence in argument writing.

Have students share an opinion and then talk about why they have it. Challenge them to be specific and concrete. Rather than having students write these reasons down, start verbally. Students first need to have a firm grasp of what it means to give evidence before they will have an easier time pulling that evidence out of texts. 

Scaffold It 

A deliberate scaffolded structure is crucial when working with students needing extra help. Understanding evidence citation is challenging – don’t expect to explain it once and have students be able to do it on their own. 

I Do/We Do/You Do

This approach is particularly effective when you want to help students cite proper evidence. First, you explain and then show students exactly what you want them to do. Then, you will do practice runs together as a class or in small groups. Finally – and only when you are sure your students have a firm understanding of what they are to do – they will attempt the task on their own

The critical thing to remember with this approach is that if students are struggling, back up and repeat the previous step. Remember, scaffolding is only meant to be removed once you have a solid structure underneath.

Make Sure You Don’t Rush

Learning new tasks is challenging for all students – and even adults – so it’s crucial that you don’t rush it. When students struggle or require extra help, hurrying through without building a solid foundation will frustrate everyone. 

Recognize that each student has a unique learning pace, whether special education or not. You may need to provide additional support through one-on-one sessions for those who need it. Let students do collaborative practice, which will help reinforce their understanding in various contexts.

And remember to acknowledge and celebrate small victories along the way! Recognize and applaud students when they successfully cite evidence. This can not only reinforce their confidence but also help provide motivation. 

Also, remember to provide constructive feedback that lets students know where to improve and look for the positives. Rather than point out what a student did wrong, tell them what they did right and offer ways to improve. 

Take Advantage of Ready-Made Units

If you are looking for a way to teach argumentative writing to your class and help students cite proper evidence in argument writing, check out my Argumentative Essay Writing Unit. This unit is all set up to lead your students, step-by-step, through writing a quality argumentative essay. 

This resource includes: 

  • 18 easy-to-follow, scaffolded lessons
  • The I Do/We Do/You Do approach
  • Activities to accommodate diverse learning needs
  • Skills that are broken down into lessons to help students grasp each concept
  • Printable PDF and Google Slides versions

The unit also aligns with Grades 6, 7, and 8 Common Core and Ontario Curriculum Standards.

You can find the Argumentative Essay Writing Unit on Shopify CAD or Teachers Pay Teachers USD

Correct evidence citation is challenging, especially for struggling and special education students. By being deliberate and scaffolded in your lessons, though, you can help students cite proper evidence in argument writing and make this skill less complicated for them to master successfully and for you to teach successfully.

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