I’ve written a numerous variety of essays. At college, college, and again in school once more, exhibiting my college students how you can do it. In my fourteen years instructing I will need to have modelled lots of of essays. I’ve doubtless set and assessed hundreds of the blighters.
My go-to technique has at all times been to mannequin the essay writing course of, to make seen how an skilled essay author thinks. College students are sometimes left baffled by how briskly I could make choices about my essay, how I can pluck refined tutorial phrases seemingly from the ether, after which write with velocity as nicely. With sore arms and muffled complaints, college students have been pulled alongside on the trail from novice to skilled.
In my current considering on evaluation – see my weblog on ‘The Drawback with Previous Papers‘ for extra – I’ve appeared to go additional and to hunt out deploying extra efficient diagnostic assessments to assist my college students develop their essay writing talent.
I gave the instance in my final weblog of setting ‘An Inspector Calls‘ essay to my 12 months 10 class, in preparation for them doing a summative essay writing process. [Dear reader, those essays sit in my work bag right now, taunting me] I described how my college students had so many errors and gaps of their information with their final essay, that it made my suggestions scattergun and never as efficient because it could possibly be.
I went onto write the next concerning the complexity of essay writing:
“They needed to play the ‘large recreation’ of remembering quotes, writing insights about character, theme, social context, all in a coherent argument construction, with written accuracy, with out the follow and concentrate on information to do all of these items fluently.”
In reality, writing a superb essay takes a bunch of data and experience. For English Literature then, we have to distill down that complexity into extra manageable diagnostic assessments, in order that our college students can steadily develop from their novice standing in direction of one thing like experience. To make use of an analogy, writing a terrific essay is just like the creation of a powerful rope, with every sub-strand being woven collectively in unison. Every strand of the rope can characterize the essential information required for essay writing success.
If we’re to show nice essays, then we have to outline the strands that can be woven collectively to kind the rope. For my GCSE college students, you possibly can check with the examination board rubrics, however they too typically show obscure and never as definitive as we wish. My judgment is that the important thing strands of the good essay writing ‘rope’ comes right down to college students figuring out (declarative information) and doing (summative information) the next:
- Show information and understanding of how the social context influences the author and their textual content (together with how totally different audiences could reply to the textual content);
- Show information and understanding of the character, themes and language of the textual content, making connections and inferences from throughout the textual content;
- Show information of the author’s selection of literary units and generic conventions, based mostly on a wider information of literary historical past;
- Choose, retrieve and interpret proof (predominantly within the type of quotations);
- Make inferences from that proof on the author’s vocabulary decisions based mostly upon a broad and deep tutorial vocabulary information;
- Plan and organise an essay right into a coherent argument, linking salient factors that tackle the essay query;
- Write with accuracy and readability, together with the usage of lead sentences, discourse markers and tutorial vocabulary, all deployed in an applicable tutorial model (written within the passive voice, utilizing nominalization and so forth.).
I believe we will get misplaced down the rabbit gap discussing the that means and distinction between phrases like ‘consider‘ and ‘analyse‘. I’ve ignored examination rubrics for that reason. I’m assured that if my college students may tackle the above strands, practising every in isolation, earlier than, over time, weaving them collectively into the ‘rope’ of a full, skilled essay, that my college students would write nice essays for any English Literature qualification.
I believe there’s something helpful concerning the order through which I’ve introduced the strands above. By starting with the ‘large image‘ of the social and literary context, we give our college students a schema – or a broader framework – through which to root their information of the textual content. If the textual content is ‘Animal Farm‘, they should see the massive image of Communism and Russian historical past (1), linked to the characters and themes (2), which are couched in a dystopian fairytale (3). Provided that ‘large image‘, they’ll start to pick out proof and make inferences and interpretations from the textual content.
Assessing Strand 1
Let’s take the primary strand and think about how we will use diagnostic assessments to raised develop their capacity to ‘Show information and understanding of how the social context influences the author and their textual content (together with how totally different audiences could reply to the textual content)‘, lengthy earlier than they’re requested to take action within the ‘large recreation‘ of writing a full, timed essay.
I believe the totally different strands lend themselves to totally different diagnostic assessments. Data and understanding of social context lends itself to cumulative quizzing. If we take ‘Animal Farm‘ as soon as extra, then a daily quiz to consolidate which historic figures are represented by which characters within the novella. That is essential ‘base information’ and may be assessed slightly merely. As soon as college students have consolidated these fundamental info, they’ll start to show understanding of these characters: how they alter; their relationships with different characters; the themes and concepts they relate to, and their symbolism and so forth.
One other apt evaluation for strand 1 can be utilizing graphic timelines, each for a way the textual content matches in a broader literary custom, in addition to a timeline for the textual content itself (for instance, with Animal Farm, the characters actions neatly translate to historic acts, such because the Russian revolution and so forth.)
If we want to diagnose our college students’ understanding of various viewers responses to a textual content, one other strategy is utilizing different forms of graphic organisers, corresponding to a Venn diagram, a ‘thoughts map’, or an ‘occasion map’ – see right here:
We are able to start to extend the diploma of problem, and the associated complexity of the diagnostic evaluation, by getting college students to narrate their information of a contextual issue to themes within the textual content, in addition to the viewers’s interpretation of theme and context. Right here ‘brief reply questions‘, that require a paragraph size response, are extra applicable evaluation instruments. It’s this development of evaluation that’s essential.
Nonetheless, we should maintain our nerve that doing smaller, extra exact diagnostic assessments higher secures their information and understanding than taking part in the ‘large recreation‘ of writing a number of essays. I haven’t even talked about the potential discount in instructor marking. [Ignores siren calls from the marking unceremonious neglected in my school bag]
Assessing Strand 4
Now, you’ll have famous that I missed out strands 2 and three, however I needed to handle the usage of proof, significantly the usage of quotations, given it is a actual stress level with the brand new GCSEs, because of the nature of the closed e book examinations.
There was a lot gnashing of enamel on the prospect of scholars memorising over 200 quotations for English Literature. It definitely will separate out youngsters who’re skilled to recollect quotations successfully and cumulatively, over those that usually are not, however given the problem, we should always deploy good diagnostic assessments that not solely assist us grasp our college students’ present progress, however truly assist them reinforce their reminiscence and understanding of quotations.
As indicated within the wording of strand 4, ‘choose, retrieve and interpret proof (predominantly within the type of quotations)‘, we will extra successfully separate out what we would like our college students to know and may do with proof from the textual content.
We regularly miss out the power to ‘choose‘ quotations as a primary step. We have to practice our college students to choose the ‘proper’ quotes. With tongue in cheek, I typically describe the suitable quotes to study as ‘Swiss-Military-Quotes‘. That’s to say, these quotations that you should use for a mess of essay questions, as they embody many alternative concepts, themes or points from the given textual content. An efficient essay author can solely retailer so many quotations, in order that they have to be pertinent and chosen judiciously.
By way of diagnostic assessments for choosing good quotations, we will begin with utilizing a number of selection questions that get college students to accurately relate quotations to particular person characters or themes. We are able to get college students to rank order quotations with regard to their relevance, relative significance and so forth. We are able to get them to pick out quotations when given a selected character, theme or potential essay query.
If we wish to check and learn the way nicely our college students ‘retrieve‘ quotations then we will set them timed challenges – with a ‘Citation Quest‘ (a problem to collate key quotes for no matter functions that you just establish) which proves nice for competitors; or we will quiz them on what chapter/stave/stanza/web page quotations are from. Alternatively, or concurrently, we will get college students to plan a citation timeline, that kinds quotations by chronological order, and extra.
With every of the ‘choose‘ and ‘retrieve‘ diagnostic assessments, we will, if we select to, document their relative progress. It’s related, over time, we will enhance the diploma of problem for these duties by factoring in timed situations.
In relation to ‘interpret‘, we want totally different, extra nuanced diagnostic assessments. Brief solutions quizzes can get college students to reply to particular person quotations. We are able to assess their understanding in such quizzes. We are able to assess them orally, with a ‘Only a Minute‘ exercise, whereat they should say as a lot as they’ll a couple of given citation. In fact, focused questioning can elicit how nicely they’ll interpret a citation. I like the thought, slightly than tackling essays, or PEE paragraphs (PEAL, PETAL, no matter you name it!), of doing what Katie Ashford labels ‘present sentences‘ (see right here for extra: ‘Past the Present Sentence‘): successfully a concise response to a given quote.
In fact, after we’ve got honed and assessed this extra exact textual information, we will extra constantly mix ‘choose‘, ‘retrieve‘ and ‘interpret‘ procedural information in singular duties. Over time, we may be extra assured they’re prepared to jot down a terrific essay. What we have to do is use diagnostic evaluation – testing as studying – to make sure that college students can routinely choose the ‘proper’ quotes, retrieve them rapidly, earlier than deciphering them skillfully.
Tying all of it collectively
I do know English academics have sufficient to do, but when we’re commit our time, it shouldn’t be wading by way of countless mock exams; it must be growing our topic information – significantly our textual content particular insights – and growing and sharing higher diagnostic assessments for the texts that we educate.
It might imply that we’ve got to rethink our typical instructor habits and return to the drafting board with evaluation of texts. If we get our evaluation of studying proper, we are going to doubtless be marking fewer, however higher essays. After spending numerous hours marking a number of thousand, I’m prepared for higher essays!
Learn PART TWO – the observe up outlining the seven strands.
There may be clearly work to do with regard to the evaluation strands that I’ve outlined above and the attendant vary of diagnostic assessments. If in case you have any insights, criticisms or concepts, please do share. I goal to observe up this weblog with a accomplished set of essay writing strands, with concepts for apt diagnostic assessments, however I’d welcome enter, steered adjustments, and any further concepts earlier than I try this.