TBE…What it is and why I “push” for it

TBE stands for “text based evidence”. I continually challenge the children to think below the surface of a text and to support what they say with “proof”. It is important for us to be critical thinkers as we make judgements about anything in life. We take time to do “research”…whether it be at the grocery store when we select a certain product or decide which car we want to buy. Decisions like which political candidate or issue to support are often influenced by the facts we learn. Therefore learning to look for evidence to support what we think, say, and feel is a critical skill.

Going back to the idea of thinking “below the surface”, I work with the children on analyzing and evaluating when they read. In other words… we consider questions and ideas that do not necessarily have a ‘correct’ answer. On the surface questions or thinking means that we can easily figure something out because the “evidence” is right there; often there is one answer or response that fits. This is the type of thinking the children are used to…which means they are used to being “correct” or “right”. We work hard on shifting that thinking.

So when we go “below” the surface, we hunt for clues or evidence to support what we think. This is where TBE comes in. If I claim a character is determined or the theme of a text is bullying, I need to support those ideas with proof from what I read. Thus we spend time learning about how and when to “copy” or cite text. This is where being a “text talker” helps. We can use sentence starters like “according to the text…”, “the text explicitly states…”, or “I can infer from…”

Using TBE or citing evidence from a text differs from PARAPHRASING where a reader tells what is going on in his or her own words. Paraphrasing is important and useful, but learning the difference is important. This is why I stress the use of TBE because I want children to learn HOW and WHY we use the words of a writer to prove what we are trying to say.  Later they will learn how to cite text more formally but for now, I’m looking for the use of evidence and explaining how the evidence supports thinking fully! It is a BIG higher level thinking skill. One that takes practice and repetition to build and strengthen.

Introducing “Greenie Book Bits”

One of the learning options I’m allowing students to unlock is the recording of podcast episodes where they do a short “Book Bit” or get to talk about a text they have read. This involves writing a script and then working on “playing their vocal instrument”:


After writing and practicing their script, students can record their work! Carter helped me figure out some details and recorded a fun first podcast episode for us! 

Ella Enchanted/novel expectations (4th grade)

Ella Enchanted/novel expectations:

Required is the reading of the assigned chapters each week at home.

From there I have given the students options on the level of effort they are willing to put forth.  (I had them all set a goal for the level they want to work to). I did this for several reasons:

  1. I want the children to want to put forth extra effort with the additional options.
  2. The required components in class are challenging as is.
  3. Students who choose to do just the minimum (read at home; do the work in class) will start to discover that the work will be “easier” if they put more effort into it on their own.
  4. By helping the children start to discover that when they put more in, they get more out, I’m hoping to instill a habit or mindset for the future (that is if they invest more than what is required with an assignment, they will reap greater rewards; I see this as a life skill too).

Here’s an explanation of a weekly discussion guide (which students receive a paper copy of; also available in the Google Classroom):

  • Required from home is “level 1” (read the chapters).
  • Level 2 is required but can be done at home or in class.  
  • The other levels are for the children to strive to. Ideally I hope each child starts to set a goal for level 3 or 4 as they start to see how the extra effort will help them improve, grow, and make the in class required work “easier”.

Parent Guide to the "discussion guide".pngFridays in class will then work like this:

  • Students come in and have 10 minutes to complete the pre-discussion activity (level 2) form if they have not already.
  • Students will be put into random groups for discussion. The discussion guide will drive their conversations. Discussions are recorded so it becomes evident who put thought into the guide and who didn’t. Prepared students emerge as leaders.
  • After 20 minutes of discussion, students get Chromebooks and complete an “exit ticket” or response question.

“Exit Tickets”: These are essay questions to be completed in class focusing on one aspect of the assigned reading. I have told the children that they only get 20 minutes in class on these and the goal is to build their fluency with quality constructed responses (in other words they will improve over time). The goal is to get better each week and the repeated practice helps prepare students for the assessments they will do in the spring.  Students will be instructed to put “NF” for “not finished”, letting me know they had more to say but ran out of time.  The exit tickets will be scored using the following rubric: screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-3-21-16-pm

Overall responses are only worth 8 points, so some weeks students may not do as well; the goal is LEARNING and growing over time, not getting full points week after week. This gives the children goals to work for.
I know this all seems complex and confusing. My intent is to set lofty goals and expectations for students to work for…not to achieve instantly. So if a child just reads the chapters, then s/he is doing what is required. S/he will start to discover that investing more time and effort will reap more “reward”. The other piece is that I want all of the children to ease into the expectations. Doing all of this is intense and would take an excessive amount of time, so as they get more comfortable, they will be able to do more; I consider it stamina building.