Tackling the Text Dependent Analysis Essay

February 01, 2021

Text dependent analysis writing asks students to provide specific evidence from a literary text. Here's how I help my students through that struggle.

Text-dependent analysis writing is when students are given an essay prompt that asks them to provide specific evidence from a literary or informational text while demonstrating the ability to interpret the meaning behind the evidence they provide. When my students come into sixth grade this is not a type of writing they are comfortable with.

The first few times students respond to a text dependent analysis essay, I balance modeling with gradually releasing the students to write independently. We start with a whole class writing of the introduction. Then I assign just one body paragraph. Then next time we tackle a prompt, we may again work through the introduction as a whole class and then I’ll assign two body paragraphs. Gradually we build up to writing a full five paragraph (or more) essay.

Breaking Down Text Dependent Analysis Essay Prompts
Before I even attempt to have students write a response to a text dependent analysis prompt, I introduce them to the structure of these types of prompts so that they are aware of and recognize the pattern. Without knowing how to break down the prompt, they will not know what to write about.

Text-dependent analysis prompts typically follow a three line structure. Line 1 introduces the literary element in focus. Line 2 introduces the task related to that literary element. Line 3 instructs students to use text evidence in their response. Before assigning a text-dependent analysis essay, it may be helpful to review the structure of this type of writing prompt with students so that they are aware of and recognize the pattern.

Examining A Model Text Dependent Analysis Essay
Especially when we are first diving into writing text dependent analysis essay, I will write a model essay responding to the same prompt, but focusing on a different text from the ones my students will be writing about, a text my students have also read. Doing this, rather than using a generic model, really helps students to model the structure of their paragraphs and even sentences. They can also understand the examples in the model essay because they've also read that text.

Again, when we are in our early stages of learning how to write a TDA essay, I annotate the model essay with students to have them to identify the components of each paragraph in a text-dependent analysis essay. I like to annotate the introduction and then have students write their own, annotate the body paragraphs and then have students write their own, and finally annotate the conclusion and then have students write their own. This chunking allows students to immediately try out the structure of each type of paragraph after annotation.

Brainstorming the Text Dependent Analysis Essay
Brainstorming is probably the most crucial step of the writing process when writing a TDA essay. I use a graphic organizer to help students identify the examples they will use to respond to the prompt. On the graphic organizer, students include how they will introduce and explain their examples as well as a direct quote and a page or line number. Once students have completed their brainstorming organizer, I take time to review it to ensure that students’ examples connect to the prompt. Taking the time to check students' brainstorming saves me so much time later when I am reviewing the body paragraphs students have written. For students that are struggling at this stage, I provide them with page or line numbers to look back at in the text, or reduce the number of examples I am asking for from that student.

Text dependent analysis writing asks students to provide specific evidence from a literary text. Here's how I help my students through that struggle.


Drafting the Text Dependent Analysis Essay
In addition to using a graphic organizer to help students brainstorm, I also use a graphic organizer to guide students through drafting their essay step-by-step. Like the brainstorming organizer, students are asked to include two examples per body paragraph. When I model writing a body paragraph, I show students how the ideas from my brainstorming organizer can plug right into the essay organizer, which again is why the brainstorming stage is so crucial.

Modifying the Text Dependent Analysis Essay
There's a variety of ways I modify this type essay (or really any essay) for students with IEPs or struggling writers. During the brainstorming and drafting stages, I often reduce the number of required examples per body paragraph to one instead of two. Another frequent modification I use is adding sentence frames to the organizer to help students start their sentences since getting started is often the hardest part. Another possible modification is filling in one body paragraph in the brainstorming and drafting stages for students to refer to as a model for the other two body paragraphs.

Text dependent analysis writing asks students to provide specific evidence from a literary text. Here's how I help my students through that struggle.

Revising & Editing the Text Dependent Analysis Essay
I've found color coding to be the most effective and engaging way to have students revise. Who doesn't want their writing to look like a rainbow? When students revise their essay, they follow step-by-step directions to highlight the different sections of their essay. This allows them to very clearly see that they do or do not have all of the necessary components in each paragraph, and to make additions as needed.

Some of the revision steps also require students to use the comment tool to make note of important parts of sentences. They use the bold tool to help them identity transition words and phrases. The final step is a reminder to use the spelling and grammar check tool (I'm always amazed at the number of students who will turn in an assignment with the red squiggly underlines still there!). Students mark off each step as complete as they move through the steps to help them track their progress and then review their essay for what needs to be added.

After students have completed the self revision activity, they can engage in a peer revision activity, in which a peer gives feedback based on the highlighted sections of their essay. Students are provided a mix of comment banks for feedback and more open opportunities for praise or suggestions. Once complete, students return the feedback to their partners to make necessary changes.

Scoring the Text Dependent Analysis Essay
I use a 4 point rubric to score students on focus, organization, content, and style with specific descriptors for each point value of each category. During remote learning I've started using Google Classroom’s built in rubric for scoring. Besides making it incredibly easy to score assignments online, once the rubric is created it can be used over and over for other assignments.

You can find my resources for writing text dependent analysis essays here

Text dependent analysis writing asks students to provide specific evidence from a literary text. Here's how I help my students through that struggle.

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