Relevant or Not?

This teaching strategy has been adapted for use in UK classrooms from our Common Core-Aligned Writing Prompts supplements.


To engage with and analyse a text effectively, students need to be able to identify appropriate evidence, thinking about whether or not it supports their claims and argument. The purpose of this strategy is to help students distinguish between relevant and irrelevant evidence so that they can make appropriate selections for their analytical writing and debates.


  1. Model the Process of Determining the Relevance of Evidence

    In this exercise, students will identify evidence that is relevant to prove a particular claim. This activity is most effective if students have a basic command of the concept of relevance. Therefore, we suggest modelling this process with a few examples. We recommend that you start with a real-world example and then test students’ understanding in a literature-based example

    Example 1: Real-World Claim: Mobile phones should not be allowed in school.

    • Which of the following pieces of evidence are relevant and support this claim? 
    • Which of the following pieces of evidence are not relevant to this claim?
      1. Mobile phones distract from the learning environment. Students who text or play games on their phones during class do not hear directions or miss learning important content. 
      2. Many students today bring mobile phones to school. 
      3. Mobile phones are more affordable now than they were in 2000. 
      4. In surveys, some students report using their mobile phones to cheat in exams.

Here are some ideas to bring up during a discussion of this question:

  • (a) and (d) are both relevant to defending the claim. 
  • (b) provides accurate information but is irrelevant to proving the claim. 
  • (c) may or may not be accurate. It is also irrelevant to proving the claim.

Example 2: Literature-based Claim: Priestley presents the character of Mr Birling in An Inspector Calls as ignorant and out of touch.

  • Which of the following pieces of evidence are relevant and support this claim? 
  • Which of the following pieces of evidence are not relevant to this claim?
    1. The Crofts are not celebrating the engagement dinner with the Birlings. 
    2. Birling is looking forward to a time when Crofts and Birlings ‘are working together – for lower costs and higher prices’.
    3. Birling believes that there ‘isn’t a chance of war’.
    4. Birling speaks more than anyone else in the opening scene.

Here are some ideas that you might bring up during a discussion of this question:

  • While (a) may be correct, it is not relevant to supporting the claim about Mr Birling. 
  • (b) could be used: it suggests Mr Birling is out of touch, but it does not suggest he is ignorant. 
  • (c) is relevant evidence: it highlights how Birling is out of touch because he states that war is not going to happen, but the audience knows that not only did the First World War begin two years later, but that the Second World War broke out less than thirty years later. The dramatic irony makes Birling seem ignorant and out of touch with reality. 
  • (d) highlights Birling’s self-involved nature and the fact that he may be out of touch with the social situation, but not his ignorance.
  1. Determine the Relevance of Text-based Evidence

    Continue to have students practise this exercise individually or in groups. Provide text-based analytical claims for students, and have each individual or group come up with three pieces of evidence that might be used to support the claim. Two of these selections should represent relevant evidence – evidence that addresses the particular claim. One of these selections should be accurate and credible but not relevant to proving that particular claim. Explain to students that they will present their claim and three pieces of evidence to the whole class (or to another group) and that the audience will have to determine which evidence is relevant and which is irrelevant.

    For more teaching strategies designed for UK Educators, view our PDF resource Teaching Strategies.

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