How I Teach…Embedding Quotations

This is the first in what I hope will become a series of blogs offering a step by step guide for how I teach certain key aspects of English.

It’s by no means intended to be definitive or ‘the’ way to teach whatever it might be, but will hopefully offer a couple of useful strategies.

If there’s a non-text specific aspect of English you think might make a good future post then feel free to comment here or on Twitter (@__codexterous).


So, on with the first one…how I teach students to embed quotations. Let’s imagine, then, I’ve just marked a round of essays and there is clearly and persistently a misconception across the class as to how to embed quotations or even what we mean by this. As such, I’ve set aside time to address this directly in the next available lesson. What happens next?

Step 1: The Big Picture

I begin by explaining, in brief, what we actually mean by ’embedding quotations’: it means, I say, when we use a quotation from whatever text we’re talking about and the person reading your essay can’t tell where you stop and the writer starts. It reads as though your words are their words and their words are your words. And that’s an embedded quotation.

Step 2: Live Model an Example

Now that they have a sense of the big picture definition, I live model what one looks like under the visualiser so they have a more concrete mental model for the definition I just offered.

As I do this, I talk them through exactly what I’m doing and how what they’re seeing is an embedded quotation based on the definition I just offered. In order to further demonstrate the underpinning principle of the above, I also cross out or delete the quotation marks I would have just used and read it all aloud, explaining that with the quotation marks deleted you can’t tell what is me and what is the writer. It’s embedded into the sentence itself.

At this point, I also introduce a couple of other elements of success when embedding quotations, specifically that the quotations used ideally should be just a couple of words, deleting superfluous words whilst ensuring it still makes perfect grammatical sense.

Step 3: Non-Examples

By this point we’ve covered a broad definition of what it means to embed a quotation as well as live modelled an example so now I would want to augment their developing mental model of what defines a successful embedded quotation by introducing what it isn’t.

To do this, I would first of all explain the next couple of examples are not embedded quotations and I’d then live model them one by one, like the below:

After each example I’d either ask students to explain to one another why these don’t meet our definition of an embedded quotation or cold call or a combination of the two, focussing on process question to make sure I’m confident students know why they wouldn’t work.

Step 4: Another Modelled Example

In the spirit of I Do-We Do, I’d now offer up a further opportunity to live model an effective embedded quotation, but ask for student feedback as to how I should be doing it as well as referencing the non-examples we just looked at. It might be we do this a couple of times, depending on how I feel the class are doing. I think making reference back to the non-examples is especially effective because it helps to build a really concrete and robust model of not only what success looks like, but also what it doesn’t look like. If I’m satisfied that we have a pretty good grasp of what an effective embedded quotation looks like then I’ll move onto the final phase, ramped independent practice.

Step 5: Ramped Independent Practice

Now it’s time for students to practise on their own and to make the most of this I would provide granular examples that gradually ramp up in complexity, but in each example they would deploying the same skills we have just gone through. As we’re doing this, I would be circulating the room and checking for any developing misconceptions or offering one to one feedback.

An example of the kind of ramped questions I would set has been listed below, anchored to whatever text we happen to be studying when we’re doing this:

Task 1

Fill in the below gaps using the quotation ‘all knowledge is precious whether or not it serves the slightest human use’.

Hector’s autotelic attitude towards educations is evident in the way in which he explains that ‘________________________________________________________’. Bennett’s use of ‘_______________’ highlights just how valuable Hector feels knowledge is, given its association with jewels.

Task 2

Fill in the below gaps using the quotation ‘proudly jingling your A Levels’.

At the start of the play Hector welcomes the boys back to school, declaring that they are ‘_______________________________________’. Bennett’s use of ‘______________’ suggests…

Task 3

Fill in the below haps using the quotation ‘paradox works well and mists up the windows’.

Bennett immediately establishes Irwin as a powerful but manipulative character. We are introduced to him advising a group of MPs to use ‘______________’ in order to ‘_____________________________’. This metaphor suggests…

Task 4

Rewrite the following sentence so that the quotation is tightly embedded into a grammatical sentence: Irwin is a manipulative and cunning character who does not seem to care about the truth. ‘Truth is no more at issue in an exam than fashion at a striptease or thirst at a wine tasting’.

Task 5

Rewrite the following sentence so that the quotation is tightly embedded into a grammatical sentence: Hector represents the view that poetry is spiritually enriching and has the ability to heal us: ‘antidote’ and ‘medicine’.

Task 6

Rewrite the following sentence so that the quotation is tightly embedded into a grammatical sentence: Irwin worries that the boys write essays that will not catch the examiner’s eye ‘dull. Dull. Abysmally dull’.

Task 7

Rewrite the following sentence so that the quotation is tightly embedded into a grammatical sentence and then offer one point of analysis: Hector dislikes exams very much. ‘I count exams even for Oxford and Cambridge as the enemy of education’.

Task 8

Rewrite the following sentence so that the quotation is tightly embedded into a grammatical sentence: Bennett establishes the Headmaster very early in the play as a figure of ridicule: ‘I am corseted by the curriculum’.

Task 9

Rewrite the following sentence so that the quotation is tightly embedded into a grammatical sentence: Bennett suggests that Hector’s teaching is valuable as it spiritually enriches the boys ‘It’s to make us more rounded human beings’ rather than focusing just on the outcome of an exam

Task 10

Rewrite the following sentence so that the quotation is tightly embedded into a grammatical sentence: ‘Every answer a Christmas tree hung with appropriate gobbets’ Irwin represents the increasing trivialisation of knowledge where it is seen almost as a decoration

Step 6: Onwards…

The final step of this process is the ongoing monitoring that would be taking place in future work, ensuing that we fold in future opportunities for practice and feedback where necessary. This might take the form of added examples in a Do Now or a Together Task during whole class feedback, or even something more extensive (like an additional cycle of the above), depending on the needs of the class.

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