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This Shows – This Also Shows: A Strategy to Encourage Student Commentary and Analysis
This Shows – This Also Shows: A Strategy to Encourage Student Commentary and Analysis

As teachers, we want students to analyze; we want them to interpret things for the audience, but they seldom do. This strategy will help.

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Written by essaypop
Updated over a week ago

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At essaypop, we talk to a lot of English and writing teachers. We talked to them every day, and one of the biggest complaints we hear involves students' lack of commentary and analysis in their writing. Students can present a claim and they can even provide evidence to support the claim, but when it comes to making sense of the evidence, students come up short. As teachers, we want students to analyze; we want them to interpret things for the audience, but they seldom do, often providing a scant explanatory sentence or two that is usually fairly surface-level stuff.

One technique that we have found to get students to take their analysis and reasoning deeper is what we call the “this shows, this also shows” strategy. To demonstrate how this strategy works, let's begin with a basic claim, evidence, and analysis paragraph. The prompt that led to this piece of writing asked students to present the possible benefits of a dangerous or misunderstood animal. Here is the writing completed in the essaypop writing frame system. The claim is in red, the evidence is in green, and the analysis is in purple.

Here is how the writing appears as an MLA-formatted document. The system converts to this format in real-time.

As you can see, the student has done the basics; they've presented a claim, followed it with some researched text evidence, and then attempted to explain the relevance of the evidence to the claim. It's not a bad piece of writing, it's just that it leaves the reader wanting more. Like many emerging writers, this student seems to have wanted to get in and out of the task quickly. The result, however, is that the writer's perspective, her “take” if you will, is limited and lacks the depth of thinking that we’d like to see.

When I encounter writing like this, I will often turn to the student and say to them, "This is an interesting explanation, but what else does the evidence show?" The question is often met with a perplexed look and the counter-question, "What do you mean?" Whereupon on I say something like, We'll, you've told me in a few sentences what the evidence means. I would like to know what else the evidence might show us. Could you go back and tell me more?"

Since we're writing with the essaypop platform, we're able to scaffold this requested revision by adding a second, purple analysis frame to the writing area. Once this has been done, it's a lot easier to show the student where they will compose their additional analysis or explanation.

I like to tell them, the first frame is for the “this shows”; the second frame is for the “this also shows”. And while they don't have to necessarily use these exact phrases, they understand that they're going to be required to come up with two conclusions or two different takes based on the same evidence, thereby, lengthening and enhancing this section of the writing. Here’s the setup:

And here is what it looks like once the student has composed the second section of explanation/ analysis.

As you can see the response is more thorough and feels more complete. What I have always found interesting is that the second instance of analysis in this kind of communication always seems to be better and more well-thought-out than the first. Generally, it’s more insightful and personal. It's as though the student's first round of reasoning summons up the most obvious reasoning or even ends up summarizing the evidence, but the second attempt requires them to really think about what they're trying to say and prove. As a result, the commentary is invariably better.

And remember, students don’t always have to use the phrases, “this shows and this also shows”. That’s what we call the strategy, and those two phrases do work well together, but as always, we strive for sentence variety. That’s why the essaypop sentence starters come in handy. Here students can find hundreds of ways to introduce their commentary and analysis.

Summary

The “this shows, this also shows” technique can be used for any kind of essay and in any situation. Adding explanation can be done in short essays as we've seen here, but it can also be done while writing a much longer essay. Anywhere in the writing where a student feels that their reasoning has fallen short, they can simply pause and think about what else the evidence is showing the reader. This technique will invariably cause them to go deeper into the subject and into the analysis, and the writing will almost always be better as a result.

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