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Common Student Hang-ups: Quote Bombing

By Dave Stuart Jr.

When a student is writing an argument and then suddenly drops a quote into the paper with no blending or explanation, that's a quote bomb. I made the word up myself, just like plenty of others have (here's an example from Mercer Island Schools, and here's one from some folks at UNC — the fact that we all use this word and may very well have all come up with it on our own is an example of multiple discovery).

Quote bombing is akin to a courtroom scene where the prosecuting attorney stands up with a glove while stating, “The defendant is guilty. This is a bloody glove. The defendant is guilty.” It would be a laughable scene in a film; it's a painful scene for someone who's trying to take an arguer seriously. Without the reasoning that links the evidence to the claim, there isn't an argument.

Importantly, no student ever learns to quote bomb by him- or herself. They've learned that their essays need evidence, but they've not really learned how to use quotations as evidence, or maybe even how evidence works. To help with this, we can give our students more opportunities to argue with evidence in class. We introduce the use of evidence through modeling at the start of a pop-up debate, and then, when a student uses evidence effectively during the discussion, we interrupt to explain why what they did worked.

After a pop-up debate like this, students are ready to learn from an exemplar before writing one-paragraph arguments of their own that use textual evidence to support their topic sentence claims.

2 Responses to Common Student Hang-ups: Quote Bombing

  1. J. Sell May 23, 2017 at 11:39 am #

    Another great post. My own term to describe the same thing is “drive-by quoting,” a random act of textual violence with no apparent connection to the scene of the crime. A case can usually be constructed after the fact–there *was* a connection, the time and place weren’t quite so random as they first appeared–and that’s where we need to help students become textual detectives (or attorneys), connecting the evidence with the claim and building the case.

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