Teach Students to Find and Use Evidence


When students take information and use it to make something new, they experience deep learning. Transforming information into useable knowledge is an active process. Students need to perceive information, group it into categories, integrate new information with prior knowledge, and use that information for new purposes. In short, students need to understand how to find and use evidence.

How you can help students find and use evidence

You can provide frequent and varied opportunities to practice finding and using information for specific purposes. Model for students how to gather long and short quotes, as well as images and other media, from texts. Help students to categorize these artifacts by demonstrating how to label items as a main idea or supporting detail. These labels support students to identify main ideas and supporting details, which can later be used in activities and other text-related projects.

Teaching tips
  1. Model how information is transformed into evidence. Gathering and editing quotes is important, but using them purposefully is when information is transformed into evidence. Model how to choose quotes to use as evidence, and show how you would edit or embed a quote as evidence for a larger point.
  2. Have students gather quotes from a text or other media source using paper, post-it notes, a graphic organizer, etc. Then discuss, with details, how a quote illustrates or supports the point they want to make.
  3. Have students read one of the Word Generation Articles http://wordgen.serpmedia.org/t_weekly2014.html. Ask students to identify the two sides of the issue raised by the article, then ask them to find evidence in the article for each side of the issue and share their ideas with another peer or in small groups.
Lesson: Find It, Use It! (Relates to teaching tips 1 and 2)

Build student skills in identifying, categorizing, and using evidence for arguments. By the end of this lesson, students will be able to distinguish between strong and weak evidence, and explain how strong evidence supports an argument.


Finding and using evidence effectively involves many different skills and flexibility. Students will need to practice identifying evidence, categorizing it, and using it to support ideas and build arguments.


  1. Introduction: Set up an evidence scavenger hunt in your room, including strong and weak evidence. (Crime ideas: Who reversed the direction of all the seats? Who took the class mascot? Who wrote a silly message on the board?) Create and place evidence around the room, and have students discover the evidence, evaluate it, and categorize it into strong and weak categories. Connect this evidence discovery and evaluation process to finding strong and weak evidence in text. Post the steps of the evaluation process in your classroom.
  2. Model: Choose a story to view with the whole class and identify the claim you want to support using evidence. Determine what kind of project would be best to present your claim (i.e., a review, a debate presentation, etc.). Walk through the text with your students using your evaluation process and discuss which items are strong pieces of evidence and which ones are weak pieces of evidence.
  3. Model: Go through each piece of gathered evidence and talk through how it does, or does not, strongly support the claim.
    1. Create a T-chart on the board. Write the claim above the chart. Label one column of the chart “Weak Evidence” and the other “Strong Evidence.”
    2. Explain that weak evidence is evidence that does not make a clear connection to the claim.
    3. Explain that strong evidence is a fact, detail, or illustration that have a clear connection to the claim.
  4. Independent Practice: Give students the option to work individually or in pairs and ask them to repeat this process:
    1. Select a story of their choice.
    2. Identify the claim they want to present.
    3. Identify the type of the project that would be best for presenting that claim.
    4. Use the evaluation process to sort strong and weak evidence.
  5. Extend skills: From here, you can show students how to collect and edit evidence to support their ideas. You can also begin to show them how to use their own words to explain evidence that supports their ideas. Lastly, you can point out how collected items always have citations and discuss the difference between cited work and independent ideas.

Hinchman, Kathleen A. & Moore, David W. (2013). Close Reading: A Cautionary Interpretation. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 56(6), 441–450. doi: 10.1002/JAAL.163.

Common core standards

Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

I just think…projects make them think about it longer. It makes them reflect on it longer and I believe that helps their comprehension. They have to go back into the story. People are going to remember what they want to read. If they are interested in it, they are going to remember.

~ Teacher