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Citing Evidence from Complex Text

Students in Julia St. Martin's tenth-grade ELA class at the Springfield Renaissance School in Springfield, MA engage in a structured evidence-based discussion of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Close reading, citing evidence from text, and speaking and listening skills are highlighted through the video.

This video accompanies the book Transformational Literacy: Making the Common Core Shift with Work That Matters.


- I got a quote from act four, scene three and said, “I will not be the villain that thou think’st, For the whole...”

- [Narrator] Two key instructional shifts required by the Common Core: our students have regular practice with complex text, and when students read, write about and discuss text, they cite evidence compellingly. Let’s see what that looks like in a tenth grade language arts class where students have been practicing citing evidence all year.

- [Teacher] Alright so we’re gonna get started. Kids are just finishing up work with Shakespeare’s Macbeth. So today was a public speaking assessment, where kids were asked to really push themselves to think about Shakespeare’s themes. Corruption, violence, gender roles, and several motifs. Inner circle, Muhammad, could you share for us?

- Have a conversation or discussion about the action, decision, conflict of their choice. You are encouraged to make reference to the expert text we have examined this week. You must use conversation starters like, this justifies, proves, supports, infers, demonstrates and this relates to. Remember to reference the title of the expert text before using it to prove your point. A healthy balance of personal experience and expert text facts is a must.

- The first round’s gonna be six minutes, time keeper. Facilitator, you will start with the first question.

- First question, compare and contrast Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

- Yeah, I have a quote from act one, scene seven. Macbeth says, “If we should fail?” and Lady Macbeth replies, “We fail? But screw your courage for sticking-place, And we’ll not fail.” Shakespearean language is a very different language than our modern English and what we’re used to, so it definitely did take a lot of academic courage, especially me. I didn’t really understand the first time just by reading it, therefore I had to keep rereading, and rereading and rereading until I was able to finally understand the information. It shows that Lady Macbeth has more of an ambition, a stronger ambition...

- Common Core asks that kids struggle with complex texts or complex math problems before we help them. That they try to make sense of it themselves so they don’t always get bailed out.

- I came from a different country and that was definitely a challenge for me, trying to adapt to all those, you know that new language, those new people. How they do things differently here than what I was used to back in my country in Puerto Rico. And as we all know, back then men were considered the ones who have courage, the ones who have ambition, rather than the females when they were more submissive and just listened to the males.

- I disagree because in the end it changes and Macbeth says, “The mind I sway by and the heart I bear shall never sag with doubt nor shake with fear...”

- Stepping up to sharing a different idea, or maybe disagreeing with something else, that’s something that’s very difficult sometimes. You don’t wanna seem like, “Oh I don’t agree with you, you’re wrong”, but you do wanna share your ideas and you do wanna, you know interpret their text in a different way to challenge them.

- So in the end he becomes the confident one, and Lady Macbeth becomes more of the guilty one and she starts suffering.

- Can we pause? I love that you guys are focusing on thematic words like loyalty, but let’s see if we can push our conversation to really unpack or dissect the character of Lady Macbeth. Okay, continue. Great job. In today’s class I spoke about five minutes and kids facilitated and moved through the lesson for sixty-five minutes of the course. And I think the preparation for that was guided through really good reading comprehension, you know short benchmark assessments, as well as giving kids some feedback on classroom culture.

- I could argue that Lady Macbeth also showed a lot of growth.

- The Common Core really prioritizes complex texts, complex problems, stepping up the challenge.

- I have a quote that supports what you were saying, where Macbeth says, “Stay you imperfect speakers. Tell me more.” It’s act one, scene three.

- I feel Ms. St. Martin prepared us very well before this round table discussion. We analyzed together as a whole class. You know, specific passages people didn’t understand and she helped other students who did understand that passage explain to us. So we had, you know like different perspectives of what people thought the deeper meaning behind the passage or event was in the novel.

- And I basically talk about how ...

- The Core is very evidence based. They want kids to be able to speak with evidence and cite evidence as mathematicians.

- When the doctor says, “Foul whisperings are abroad”.

- And as literate thinkers in science, and social studies and ELA.

- Because everyone sees Macbeth as the weak one in the beginning, and yeah he’s the one who set up to kill Banquo, set up to kill Macduff’s family, his wife and his kids. Like, he was savage in the end. He just cared about killing everybody.

- I think through ownership of their understanding of Macbeth, they were able to use the language in a careful way and they were also able to respect each other’s ideas.

- Quotes, quotes, quotes. They emphasize your point and you guys were all using them. This school has definitely taught me to push myself. And back then, the person would have fear would be the female. One of my goals is definitely attending college, something that was not accessible to me before I came to this school at all.

- So you think about it, but Lady Macbeth...

- The big goal of Renaissance is having 100 percent college acceptance.

- We’ve had three graduating classes. Every single class has had every graduate accepted to college.

- [Teacher] Okay great, good job.

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