Strategy Guide

ICED: The Key to Elaboration

9 - 12
Strategy Guide Series
Teaching Writing

About this Strategy Guide

This guide provides resources and step-by-step directions for using the Idea, Citation, Explanation, Defense of Thesis (ICED) strategy, which allows students to strengthen body paragraphs through various elaboration exercises. After considering the purpose and composition of body paragraphs, students are introduced to the ICED acronym. Students then practice the "C and E" steps (citation and explanation) of the strategy independently and in small groups. Finally, students apply the ICED strategy to an essay they have previously written.

Research Basis

Students often struggle to provide concrete examples that demonstrate their understanding of the content being assessed and with connecting their ideas back to the focus of the paper. Students also assume too much of their reader and do not develop their individual ideas but rather replicate textbook information. Building on Newman’s Theory of Intellectual Achievement as discussed in Sisserson, Manning, Knelper, and Jollieffe’s article, "Authentic Intellectual Achievement in Writing," higher order thinking skills and real-world examples and/or citations are necessary for students to cultivate their own composition style.  Students must practice analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to support their thesis/claim with real evidence.

This Strategy Guide offers criteria for elaboration that dovetailed nicely with the new core curricular standards, mainly drawing evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. The focus of ICED is supporting the claim through reasonable evidence, i.e., a citation which can come from literature studied, personal observations, or concrete real world examples. Then students must explain the citation using key ideas and details, another core standard. Though somewhat formulaic in nature, the ICED technique offers students a framework for thinking critically and for developing their own ideas with confidence.

Strategy in Practice

This strategy works best when introduced early in the year, perhaps after the students have submitted a writing sample, allowing for modeling of the steps of ICED using an actual prompt and authentic student responses. Scaffolding this technique further enhances students’ ability and confidence.

  1. Have students journal about what they think the purpose of a body paragraph is and the strategies they use when they compose body paragraphs. Next, allow them to “pair-share” their ideas and compare the strategies they use. As a class, put the ideas on the board for all to evaluate. After looking over the class list, have students identify what they think are the best components of an effective body paragraph.
  2. Using ICED: The Key to Elaboration handout, introduce students to the acronym and connect the ideas back to the student-made list. Allow them time to group the techniques on the board and sort/pair each to one of the four elements of ICED. Then, create a master ICED list that combines the students’ ideas and ICED as a review or checklist for writing body paragraphs.
  3. Independently or for homework, have students complete the C and E in the ICED Format handout.

    Here you can demonstrate how straightforward ICED is and how it can be used in all academic disciplines. The handout is intentionally rudimentary so that students with all levels of writing ability can see how elaboration works and how it expands on their original idea to add greater depth and clarity. You may even choose to add examples that are discipline-specific to enhance the universality of the technique.

  4. The following day, give students the opportunity to share their best example of the C and E in the ICED Format homework on the board.
  5. Next, share the Student Samples Modeling Effective ICED Paragraphs handout. See “The C-Rule” writing prompt and The Crucible literary analysis. As a class, discuss how the student models elaborate on their topic sentence, thereby developing the thesis more fully. Refer back to the list from yesterday and discuss the successful traits of the paragraph. For more advanced students, show the college level example of ICED.
  6. In groups, have students discuss the importance of elaboration in all types of writing in all subjects. As a class, create a “Top 10” list for elaboration.
  7. Using the Building a Fully ICED Body Paragraph: A Revision Exercise handout, have students choose a previous essay to review and to revise using ICED. After completing the revision, students can critique each other through peer conference.

Utilizing authentic samples from students is an extremely successful method to break down and to model ICED. Analyzing actual student essays together as a class allows students to begin to recognize what is lacking in their writing and simultaneously gives them a strategy to improve it.

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