Text Based Detectives & Accountable Talk

The common core standards push our students to think deeply and find evidence for their thinking. This has molded the way literature is taught as students are expected to read a text and formulate answers based on where they found the evidence in the text. Mclass testing and EOG tests are a prime example of how/why students are expected to do this. As young as first grade students are expected to read a book, formulate an answer, and at times write the answer to a question using evidence from the text. There are many who argue that this is or isn’t developmentally appropriate but this is the reality. As a second grade teacher I have found a need to prepare my students so they know what to expect.

One way I have done this is I have made an incentive in my classroom called “Text Talkers”. I first found this idea on a blog (here) by Jen Jones. At the beginning of the year I talk with my students about the importance of finding evidence in the text. I am constantly modeling this while doing read alouds. I then give my students a “text talking” guide. This has sentence starter prompts that guide students to find answers in the text. Some of the text starts are:

  • The author states…
  • I infer because…
  • The author states _______ on page ________.
  • The illustration shows….
  • According to the text…

Each student has a list of text talker starters in a page protector they keep in their desk. On the other side of the text talker sentence starter page is a text talker grid. Every time the students answer a question and are “text talkers” they are allowed to color in a square on their grid. If they use a page number or quotes they get to color in an extra square. Students bring this tool to reading group and are allowed to use it for assessments and for reading homework. Once students fill in their text talker grid it gets added to our “text talker wall of fame”. Students love to see their grid posted to show their hard work!

Another strategy I use is the “RACE” method. This also helps to remind students to look back in the text and find evidence.


I also push my students to use accountable talk in the classroom. This shows students the importance of listening to others and being clear about what they are trying to say. We use accountable talk in all subject areas especially in math and reading. Promoting accountable talk in the classroom also helps students in their writing as they are still focusing on using evidence for their thinking. In the beginning of the year we go over the roles of speaker and listener. We role play what it looks like when one is the speaker and when one is the listener.


Throughout the classroom I have posters showing different examples of accountable talk to reinforce how to communicate with others in our classroom. These sentence starters are similar to the sentence starters found on our text talker sheet.


Using these strategies has helped my students understand the meaning of text based evidence. I have seen a growth in their motivation and understanding of text after putting these into place. Happy reading!

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