Tag Archives: inspiration

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).

diagram

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.

Continue reading

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

Cultures of Thinking PD program, with Ron Ritchhart

I have become part of a semester long professional development project called “Cultures of Thinking”. It is lead by Visible Thinking and Harvard Project Zero researcher Ron Ritchhart. It focusses on creating an environment where “a group’s collective as well as individual thinking is valued, visible, and actively promoted as part of the regular, day-to-day experience of all group members.” a.

One of the key components of this program is class observation – not to evaluate the teacher but to learn and become more aware of your own habits, cultures and teaching strategies. Our first day consisted of two sessions, in the morning we were introduced to the cultures of thinking program and questioning techniques. The second was a plenary session in which teachers from four schools came together to learn about how to objectively and non-judgmentally observe a lesson and how to record data so that it is useful for the person/school being observed.

My notes and relevant resources are below.
Capture

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  1. See more at: http://www.pz.harvard.edu/projects/cultures-of-thinking#sthash.Lw4Gagmy.dpuf  (back)

Dylan Wiliam on assessment

On the 29th of May we had a professional development day with Dylan Wiliam. He spoke to us about what works and what doesn’t work in education.IMG_3291

Below are 6 key points about how to improve teaching and learning according to Dylan Wiliam:

  • Stop students putting their hands up to ask questions – it’s the same ones doing it all the time. Instead introduce a random method of choosing which pupil answers the question, such as lollipop sticks, and thus engage the whole class.
  • Use traffic-light cups in order to assess quickly and easily how much your students understand your lesson. If several desks are displaying a red cup, gather all those students around to help them at the same time.
  • Mini-whiteboards, on which the whole class simultaneously writes down the answer to a question, are a quick way of gauging whether the class as a whole is getting your lesson. This method also satisfies the high-achievers who would normally stick their hands up.
  • A short burst of physical exercise at the start of the school day will do wonders for students’ alertness and motivation. As any gym addict or jogger will tell you, it’s all about the chemicals released into the brain.
  • Ditch the obsession with grades, so that pupils can concentrate instead on the comments that the teacher has written on written classwork.
  • Allow students to assess the teachers’ teaching – they are the ones at the sharp end, after all. Letting pupils have a say is empowering and, if handled constructively, is highly enlightening. (Source)

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Taking a step back to see the greater scheme of things….

The holidays have started and it is nearly Christmas. Now is a good time to take a step back and be reminded that it’s about making the most of the fleeting moments that we are lucky enough to be conscious of in the great lottery of the uni/multiverse.

I’ll start with a famous creation story by the environmentalist David Brower. He calculated that if the earth was only 6 days old, human beings would have only been around less than half a second before mid night on the last night. When I read things like that, as a parent, a history teacher and a human being, I am struck by how we are simultaneously insignificant and very powerful.

I am also including the first page of Bill Bryson’s masterful “A Short History of Nearly Everything”. He makes it very clear that we are nothing but star dust; I love it. We should all realise that our daily worries and stresses are insignificant in the greater scheme of things…. Continue reading

How to move your lessons from good to outstanding | Teacher Network Blog | Guardian Professional

An “Assessment for Learning” questioning technique to help teachers move from  good-to-outstanding. It also helps address differentiation in the classroom and  encourages teachers to take risks. Time to Pose, Pause, Bounce and Pounce!

How does it work? Continue reading

Summarising in 140 characters or less with my students

Had fun today. We watched a Hans Rosling video on poverty in my Year 8 class. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpKbO6O3O3M

It’s a great video and the students were certainly interested. I wanted a response from them afterwards and decided on the spot to let them ‘tweet’ their response. We first had a very interesting converstation about what Twitter is, who uses it (Turns out that two students are very active and experienced Tweeters) and what all the @ # and RT meant.

Then the students used http://www.lettercount.com/ to keep track of the amount of characters. Below is a selection of their ‘tweets’. The students really seemed to enjoy it. Continue reading

‘What makes a great teacher?’

I stumbled upon a great article in The Atlantic Magazine about “What makes a great teacher”. The article describes how the ‘Teach for America‘ program hunts for highly successful teacher candidates, by using the results of a four year long research project to predict which people will become successful educators. The article is about three pages long and very well written.

Below I have distilled the main aspects – based upon academic research – of what makes a great teacher:

  • Great teachers tended to set big goals for their students.
  • Great teachers constantly reevaluate what they are doing.
  • … they avidly recruited students and their families into the process
  • … they maintained focus, ensuring that everything they did contributed to student learning
  • … they planned exhaustively and purposefully—for the next day or the year ahead—by working backward from the desired outcome
  • … they worked relentlessly, refusing to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty, bureaucracy, and budgetary shortfalls.
  • For example, one way that great teachers ensure that kids are learning is to frequently check for understanding: Are the kids—all of the kids—following what you are saying? Asking “Does anyone have any questions?” does not work, and it’s a classic rookie mistake.
  • “Strong teachers insist that effective teaching is neither mysterious nor magical. It is neither a function of dynamic personality nor dramatic performance,”
  • He follows a very basic lesson plan often referred to by educators as “I do, we do, you do.” He does a problem on the board. Then the whole class does another one the same way. Then all the kids do a problem on their own.
  • The activities come in brisk sequence, following a routine the kids know by heart, so no time is lost in transition.
  • … But ineffective teachers are almost never dismissed. Principals almost never give teachers poor performance evaluations—even when they know the teachers are failing.
  • … great teachers tended to reflect on their performance and adapt accordingly. So people who tend to be self-aware might be a good bet.
  • What did predict success, interestingly, was a history of perseverance—not just an attitude, but a track record.
  • Those who initially scored high for “grit”—defined as perseverance and a passion for long-term goals, and measured using a short multiple-choice test—were 31 percent more likely than their less gritty peers to spur academic growth in their students. Gritty people, the theory goes, work harder and stay committed to their goals longer.

But another trait seemed to matter even more. Teachers who scored high in “life satisfaction”—reporting that they were very content with their lives—were 43 percent more likely to perform well in the classroom than their less satisfied colleagues. These teachers “may be more adept at engaging their pupils, and their zest and enthusiasm may spread to their students,” the study suggested.

In general, though, Teach for America’s staffers have discovered that past performance—especially the kind you can measure—is the best predictor of future performance. Recruits who have achieved big, measurable goals in college tend to do so as teachers.

Meanwhile, a master’s degree in education seems to have no impact on classroom effectiveness.

Female applicants are more likely to bring props, which is not a bad thing. In fact, women are more likely to be effective in Teach for America, Duckworth found.

Please read the original article here:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/01/what-makes-a-great-teacher/7841/1/

As a teacher, I found it so inspirational to read the article. It reminds me that teaching is a craft, and you improve your skills every day, no matter how long you’ve been in front of a class. Teaching is dynamic, if you don’t constantly change and improve, you move backward.

Below is another list with attributes of a great teacher, put together by Dorai at http://dorai.wordpress.com/2009/11/13/attributes-of-a-great-teacher/.

This list is based on conversations with students and teachers:

  • Dedicated
  • Motivating
  • Engaging
  • Some times entertaining
  • Good story teller
  • Has knowledge of subject matter
  • Conversation starter
  • Inspires students
  • Challenges students to think
  • Can demystify hard subjects
  • Egoless
  • Innovates in teaching methods
  • Life-long learner
  • Has infinite patience
  • Not judgemental
  • Understands student’s difficulties,
  • Understands student’s learning styles
  • Takes pride in students’ achievements

I want to add one little element to this conversation of what makes a great teacher. I do it half in jest, but it is still a serious contribution:

I once overheard a group of Year 9 girls discussing a teacher whom I knew to be a very knowledgeable, interesting and experienced educator. The girls, however, were saying how much they disliked him,…… because he ‘smelled’. And because he ‘always wears the same thing’. Teenagers can be tough on each other, but also on their teachers. So to the list of attributes of a great teacher, I would add ‘impeccable personal hygiene’ and ‘professional dress’. Yes, it may be frivolous, but no matter how great a teacher you are, if you ‘smell’, kids will turn off!

Interesting post about life-long learners

Steven Anderson is an active tweeter, blogger and Web2 user. He conducted an interesting poll about why some people call themselves a ‘life-long learner’. I have used the word myself. It is such an IB word and it is in danger of being hollowed out by its overuse; in the end, who ISN’T a life long learner? Never the less, Anderson’s poll resulted in some interesting insights: http://web20classroom.blogspot.com/2010/11/why-are-you-life-long-learner-follow-up.html