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Avoiding the "Kerplunk Effect": Teaching Students How to Embed Quotations


Dear Dr. D'


My students do not know how to put quoted material in their essays? Can you help me?



Dear Margaret,

My friend, Shelly Cook, calls this strategy "Avoiding the Kerplunk Effect," and I love that phrase! Yes, let's talk about how to seamlessly embed quotations, a skill that is not only a valuable skill for literary analyses, but also a standard in most states and certainly in the Common Core State Standards. Let me share with you Jane's solution which is found in all of the guides. She calls it Transition/Lead-in/Concrete Detail, or TLCD.


Instructions for Students:

  1. Choose your quotation CD and write it on the Quotation lines on your Tchart.
  2. Think of the lead-in by asking yourself, “What happens in the story right before the quote?”
  3. Use one of these starter words to begin the lead-in and write it on the Lead-in lines on your Tchart:
  1. After
  2. Since
  3. Although
  4. When
  5. As
  6. While
  7. Before

I tell the students that the test of a well-placed embedded quotation is that if I close my eyes and ask a student to read his or her sentence, I should not be able to tell when the writer's voice ends and the quote begins.

Then, I take the students to YouTube and the AllState commercial where the AllState's spokesperson's voice replaces the speaker's voice. It's the same feel with embedded quotations.

Here are few examples:

High School Example:

Prompt: In Act 1, Scenes 5-7 of William Shakespeare’s drama, The Tragedy of Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is the driving force behind her husband’s resolve to murder King Duncan.  In a well-organized two-chunk paragraph (1:2+), analyze the extent to which Lady Macbeth rejects her femininity to further her pursuit of power. List of CDs Selected:

  • “Bellona’s bridegroom” (Mac. 1.2.54)
  • “You should be women,/And yet your beards forbid me to interpret/That you are so” (Mac. 1.3.45-47)
  • “Against the use of nature” (Mac. 1.3.137).
  1. In Scene 2, Ross describes Macbeth as “Bellona’s bridegroom" (Mac.1.2.54), and in mythology, Bellona is the goddess of war. 
  2. When Banquo and Macbeth come upon the “Weird Sisters,” Banquo is confused by the appearance of the witches who “should be women,/And yet [their] beards [. .  .]” suggest otherwise. (Mac. 1.3.45-47)
  3. Macbeth believes that his thoughts of murdering King Duncan are “[a]gainst the use of nature” (Mac. 1.3.137).


Middle School Example

"Pancakes" by Joan Bauer

Jill views herself as a perfectionist and has high expectations for herself. A teenager who works at Ye Olde Pancake House as a waitress, Jill is hired to replace a disorganized waitress because Jill is “a person of order” with a “system for everything [. . .], even alphabetizing condiments.

Elementary School Example

Cinderella must do all the "cooking, cleaning, and sewing by herself" (2).

Keep Reading and Writing!

Warm regards,

Dr. D' 

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