Tag Archives: history

Thesis / Antithesis / Synthesis for essay writing

While researching Marxist ideology for revision lessons on the Russian Revolution, I came across the idea of thesis/antithesis/synthesis as an argumentative framework.

I have since used it successfully in my classes. I think the notion of Dialectics and thesis/antithesis/synthesis fits in well with my other ideas about essay writing (they are nothing new, I’ve just recast them in my own way: TEAC).


What is dialectics?

Dialectics of any sort is a means of trying to resolve a paradox.

It’s important first of all to understand the difference between a paradox and a contradiction. Two things contradict if they CANNOT co-exist. A person cannot be male AND not-male. That is a contradiction. A paradox is something that SEEMS to contradict but which may possibly have some middle ground. A person might be male and female, for example, if they are a hermaphrodite (they have both sets of sex organs).

That, in a nutshell, is what dialectics does. To learn about something, it considers something that is almost its opposite, and then tries to figure out what the compromise is between the two. So perhaps you’d figure out the meaning of life by comparing it to the meaning of death. But that’s getting off-topic. a

What is dialectical materialism?

Marx was a materialist. To him, the only things worth considering were real, physical things that you could see and lay your hands on. So ideas and knowledge were pointless, unless those idea were put to work and produced results. This is why most of Marx’s work has to do with money and work, instead of some of the more airy ideas that are usually associated with philosophy.

So if you’re tasa materialist, one of the dialectics you are going to be really interested in is the contrast between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. How is it that some people have lots of material stuff and some people don’t? And what is the inevitable outcome of such a situation? Marx even went so far as to describe all of human history in the terms of this materialist dialectic.

Feudalism, to Marx, was a struggle between the aristocrats (haves) and the peasants (have-nots). Slave labour works to produce things to an extent, but skilled labour produces things better. A capitalist system recognises and rewards skilled workers more highly than unskilled ones, so in his view all feudal systems were doomed to eventually become capitalist ones.

But a capitalist system still has a dialectic. There are haves (the owners of the factories, which he called ‘bourgeoisie’) and the have-nots (the workers). So how will this inevitably be resolved? Marx thought that eventually the workers would simply stop working for the bourgeoisie and work only for themselves. All workers would then be owners, and there would be no more dialectic – a permanent, stable system that he called ‘socialism’.

To him, this was inevitable. Trying to resist this transition would only make the transition harder. There are, however, many criticism of dialectics as a whole and Marx’s conclusions in specific, so exactly how inevitable it really is can still be a matter of protracted debate. b

What is thesis/antithesis/synthesis?

In our case, we are going to use thesis, antithesis and synthesis as an argumentative tool, and it can be used very effectively as an essay writing framework:

  • Thesis – a statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved
  • Antithesis – the negation or contradiction of the thesis
  • Synthesis – the resolution of the conflict between thesis and antithesis

Student activity:

Pick a thesis.  Use your knowledge, handouts, your notes and the internet to do the following:

  • Support your thesis with two or three key points, quotes or explanations.
  • Write a credible antithesis and support it with two or three key points, quotes or explanations.
  • Write a synthesis which expresses your reasoned conclusion.

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  1. http://askeveryone.ca/.question$6748319  (back)
  2. http://askeveryone.ca/.question$6748319  (back)

IB History IA workshop, Day 3

Work in progress! These are my notes from a three day workshop for the IB History IA (New course), held at Wesley College Melbourne, on June 25, 26, 27, 2016.

Day 3, Session 9, Designing an effective IA process, ideas, skills and strategies.give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the four hours sharpening the axe

No name, no school names, no city name, no student number on the front page, the IA has to be uploaded completely anonymous. Only have the title on the front page.

We discussed our current IA practices and the ways in which we’d like to change those in the future. For me, I’d like to start earlier with finding a good research question. Formulating a good question is very challenging, so as soon as this workshop finalises the online student resource, I will introduce the students to it and will use some lessons to work on the RQ.

PDF version of the poster here: Poster PDF

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IB DP History Workshop Melbourne: the New Guide 2017

From the 2nd of May to the 4th of May 2015, I attended a three day IB DP History workshop in Melbourne. It was a very busy and well attended event, with over 300 hundred participants in total and 35 history teachers from all over the southern hemisphere in our workshop.
Below are the notes I’ve taken for each day:

  • IB DP Workshop Day 1, A general overview of the changes in the new course. How to construct a course. Big changes to Paper 1: Four instead of five sources, new OPVL, new question specific mark schemes.
  • IB DP Workshop Day 2, overview of changes to Paper 2, new mark bands. We did a lot of trial marking. Grades were often higher than we expected. There is more ‘positive’ marking.
  • IB DP Workshop Day 3, IA has been completely overhauled, three sections now. Also looked at approaches to teaching and learning.

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“How People Learn” Effective teaching in History

86f80dff7d4c3ca38804855513f857d1I have enjoyed skim reading the book “How people learn” by the National Research Council. It aims to give practical ideas on how to use current pedagogical research in the classroom.

The three key findings that the book presents are:

  1. Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works. If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp the new concepts and information that are taught, or they may learn them for purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions outside the classroom.
  2. To develop competence in an area of inquiry, students must:
    (a) have a deep foundation of factual knowledge,
    (b) understand facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework, and
    (c) organize knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application.
  3. A “metacognitive” approach to instruction can help students learn to take control of their own learning by defining learning goals and monitoring their progress in achieving them.

It has a very interesting chapter about History teaching. You can download that chapter here: Continue reading

How to be an Essay Writing Jedi Ninja (Poster with Canva and Thinglink)

Over the years I have honed my essay writing teaching skills and I’ve distilled it to 5 top tips:

  • RTBQ
  • TEAC
  • Signpost
  • State and Evaluate
  • Find the golden thread

Rather cryptic, I know, but my students know what it means. I made a poster using two cool sites: Canva and Thinglink. Canva is fantastic for making professional looking posters and Thinglink adds an interactive element to images and text. Hover your cursor over the image below to see the explanation of my cryptic but very good essay tips.

A Virtual Excursion to Florence

I created a virtual visit to Florence.

The aim of this activity is to give kids an indication of what this amazing city is like. I purposely did not include very difficult questions or complex activities; this is really about having a wander around and discover some of the places that are so important in the history of the Renaissance.

The outcome of this virtual excursion is “Seven Florence Facts”; students just have to share seven interesting renaissance facts they learnt as a result of this online excursion.

Activities include walking around Florence Cathedral (Il Duomo), going inside the Uffizi Gallery, sliding a photo on History pin to see what the Ponte Vecchio looked like after WW2 and a look inside a Medici villa.

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IB Workshops

Capture10I have just finalised Day 3 of my fourth IB workshop. These professional development events never fail to inspire and it’s always informative, as well as exhausting. I have used this blog and Twitter to record my thoughts. Here are the links to my notes from this workshop and others:

MYP Category 3, Humanities (Melbourne), June 2014

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Causes of WW2, Hexagons!

Hexagons are better than circles or squares because hexagons fit together in many ways. Much has been written about Hexagon Learning, and this activity is my interpretation of it. I have used it twice in my classes and both times have been very successful. The best thing about this activity is that it gets students discussing and arguing about the Causes of World War 2. They have to come to an agreement about how to arrange the hexagons and because the possibilities are endless, many different versions will arise.

Below are three Word Files. I hope they speak for themselves.


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