Point Evidence Explanation paragraphs have all three requirements for supporting an opinion. The point is what the writer believes, the evidence is what the writer is using to prove their belief is true, and the explanation is an explanation of how the evidence supports the point.
I use the following activity as a diagnostic to assess Reading and Writing knowledge. It is also a great icebreaker to get students interacting with and challenging their peers.
Point Evidence Explanation Examples
Point: Ivan is the worst person in “Alligator River”
Proof: He refuses to help Abigail even though they are friends.
Alternate Proof using Quotations: “Ivan did not want to be involved at all in the situation.”
Explanation: Friends are supposed to stand up for one another and help each other in times of trouble. As Abigail’s friend, Ivan is the only person who should have supported her throughout the entire ordeal. That he refused to help his friend shows that he is the worst person in the story.
PEE Paragraph (without embedded quotation):
Ivan is the worst person in “Alligator River” because he refuses to help Abigail even though they are friends. Friends are supposed to stand up for one another and help each other in times of trouble. As Abigail’s friend, Ivan is the only person who should have supported her throughout the entire ordeal. That he refused to help his friend shows that he is the worst person in the story.
PEE Paragraph (with embedded quotation):
Ivan is the worst person in “Alligator River” because he refuses to help Abigail. Even though they are friends, Ivan “did not want to be involved … in the situation” (Alligator River). Friends are supposed to stand up for one another and help each other in times of trouble. As Abigail’s friend, Ivan is the only person who should have supported her throughout the entire ordeal. That he refused to help his friend shows that he is the worst person in the story.
Introducing Point Evidence Explanation Paragraphs
Note: I don’t normally include stories that I don’t have the license to here, but I have tried to discover the author of Alligator River for some time, coming up short with each attempt. It appears on countless websites, each time unattributed. If anyone knows the author please inform me in the comments.
Read the story Alligator River aloud to your class.
Once upon a time there was a woman named Abigail who was in love with a man named Gregory. Gregory lived on the shore of a river. Abigail lived on the opposite shore of the river. The river that separated the two lovers was teeming with man-eating alligators. Abigail wanted to cross the river to be with Gregory. Unfortunately, the bridge had been washed away by a heavy storm the previous evening.
So she went to ask Sinbad, a riverboat captain, to take her across. He said he would be glad to if she would consent to go to bed with him before he takes her across. She promptly refused and went to a friend named Ivan to explain her plight. Ivan did not want to be involved at all in the situation.
Abigail felt her only alternative was to accept Sinbad’s terms. Sinbad fulfilled his promise to Abigail and delivered her into the arms of Gregory.
When she told Gregory about her amorous escapade in order to cross the river, Gregory cast her aside with disdain. Heartsick and dejected, Abigail turned to Slug with her tale of woe. Slug, feeling compassion for Abigail, sought out Gregory and beat him brutally. Abigail was happy to see Gregory getting his due. As the sun sets on the horizon, we hear Abigail laughing at Gregory.
Debriefing the Story
Students should be asked to consider the choices made by each of the five characters: Abigail, Ivan, Sinbad, Slug, and Gregory.
I structure this by first giving students five minutes to fill out a chart that ranks each of the characters from best to worst. This is a purely subjective ranking but it helps get thing thinking about the events of the story.
Once I establish that they will be filling out this chart I read the story again so that they are listening with intent, seeking out main and supporting details.
It is important that students work on this chart independently. They will have the opportunity to share with their peers in the next stage.
Once students have had time to fill out their chart, I break them into groups
Pair (and then some)
Students are split into four groups. In these new groups, all members must agree on a new list. Often times there are disagreements and strong opinions. Students become passionate about their choices, as well as their reasons.
Once they have their lists, you can move onto the sharing step or combine two of these groups to make a larger group before sharing as a class.
Each group will write their rankings on the board. First they will silently compare them, or become angered by the differences. After there has been an opportunity to read the lists, students will explain their rationale for the choices that they made.
I find that it can be helpful for teachers to write their own list on the board, after students have discussed their own. At this point the teacher can mention that they have their own reason for the choices that they made, but they are no more correct or incorrect than any of the student lists.
Ultimately, the important thing is that everyone can support their reasons. This leads us directly to an explanation of Point Evidence Explanation paragraphs.
Writing a P.E.E. Paragraph
Using the prior examples as exemplars students should be instructed to write P.E.E. Paragraph explaining who they think the worst character in the story is.
Students should then swap paragraphs and highlight the Point in yellow, the Evidence in green and the Evaluation in blue.
If you do not have access to highlighters, underlining, circling, and starring the different sections is also effective. However, I find that by highlight the entire paragraph it’s easy to visually identify problematic paragraphs.
Students should quickly see that the order of the three sections is consistent in each paragraph and that the Evaluation makes up the bulk of the writing.
Often times students will simply want to write their point assuming that everyone understands it. Some might also often evidence to support their point, but without their explanation, the reader is left the infer and make the connection themselves. Writing a P.E.E. Paragraph ensures that the writer fully communicates their ideas to the reader.
A Second Paragraph
Once students have peer edited each others’ work, and you have identified common problems, you can ask the students to write a second paragraph explaining who they think the best character in the story is.
At the end of this assignment, you will have strong evidence of their writing ability and their ability to support their opinion with textual references.
After discussing this story you can point out the various opinions students had about the characters and their actions. By telling them that a large discussion occurred based on a story that is only half a page long, they will be prepared for the challenge of discussing longer texts in Literature Circles.
I also use this activity as a starting off point for encouraging students to write their own Choose Our Way tales.
Finally, I have included a handout that has questions relating to four of the ten key literacy skills: Connecting, Comparing, Predicting, Inferring.
Alligator River – Story and Chart Handout
Alligator River – Literacy Skills Questions
Michael Barltrop has been teaching since 2006, integrating comics, video games, and TTRPGs into his classroom. He has been the head of English, Literacy, Special Education, and Assessment & Evaluation and Universal Design. Feel free to reach out through Twitter @MrBarltrop!
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3 thoughts on “Alligator River: Point Evidence Explanation Paragraphs”
This is great! Does anyone have similar story suggestions for use in a Grade Six class?
I first read the story in High School in the 1980s and have used the story numerous times in my college writing classes. I use the version I got in high school, but that version does not have a friend named “Ivan.” In the version I have, the person who refuses to get involved is Abigail’s Mother. My original teacher (back in the 80’s) credited the story to “James W. Baird.” She told us that the story was from a philosophy class and went along with the various stories/exercises about how people would choose who to let into a bomb shelter in case of a nuclear war. I have never bothered to track down Baird or the experiment; I just assumed she was giving proper credit for it.
Thhank you for being you