Every teacher is a writer. We write texts of all lengths and in all styles. I find myself writing so much too, and in so many different contexts. As an Extended Essay supervisor (See my website here about the IB EE) I help students develop their research and academic writing craft. For quite a while now, I have explained the process to them with a graph which is based on my own feelings towards research and writing. Mind you, I love/hate it, but I will keep on doing it because the satisfaction, challenge and joy is greater than the hatred. I have finally committed this graph to the computer, rather than just whiteboards. So here it is: Continue reading
I used the ‘Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis‘ argument structure to help students construct an effective paragraph or essay. You can also use “Contention – Example – Evaluation” etc. Works for English, Philosophy, Geography or any area where students have to argue something.
What’s needed: Continue reading
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 have a broken leg AND not-have a broken leg. That is a contradiction. A paradox is something that SEEMS to contradict but which may possibly have some middle ground. For instance” All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” or “You can save money by spending it”.
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 Continue reading
Over the years I have honed my essay writing teaching skills and I’ve distilled it to 5 top tips:
- 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.
I believe that every History teacher should read Professor Jeffery Nokes’ well-written paper on “Recognizing and Addressing the Barriers to Adolescents’
“Reading Like Historians”. He makes a very strong argument for creating a learning and questioning culture that is more like the actual discipline of History, rather than just uncritically rote learning and accepting what is in a textbook. Nokes’ research is firmly rooted in real classroom practice, which makes it all the more powerful and easier to apply practically.
Below you will find my highlighted sections and summary of the article. There is also a very clear overview table that lists the four barriers to “Reading like a Historian” and some suggestions as to how to overcome these barriers.
- A blog post about ‘ahistorical thinking’
- Great reading: http://www.criticalthinking.org/files/historical%20thinking.pdf
- Using the textbook as A source, not THE source. Here are some guided questions for students while reading A textbook and here are some ways to challenge the textbook, created by Stanford University.
- Nokes’ book: Building Students’ Historical Literacies: Learning to Read and Reason with Historical Texts and Evidence
There are many essay writing frameworks out there. I am sure you know the old hamburger image and the TEEL structure, but I find that these models do not convey the sophistication and analytical depth that is needed for a good paragraph / essay for IB History. So I came up with my own. I am calling it TEAC (Click on the poster):
- Topic sentence, Theme, Thesis
- Evidence and Explanation
- Analysis and Assessment
Some further explanation:
- A clear first sentence should convey what the key point (thesis) is of this paragraph. Also, a thematic approach is far stronger than a simple narrative account. Categorising events in themes like political, military, economic, social, long term, short term, strengths, weaknesses, causes, effects, ideology etc etc will produce a much more sophisticated and analytic essay than just telling the story.
- Evidence and explanation should contain stats, quotes, years, events, people. Great sentence starters are: An example of this is, it can be seen that, this is illustrated by, as shown by, for example, as historian XYZ stated etc. This is where you show you know your stuff.
- Analysis and assessment. Every IB History essay will require you to make a judgement. Just spitting out everything you know is not enough (avoid simple narratives), you have to place your knowledge into context and analyse why it was significant, what was more or less important, assess its effect or reasons why. Go to the Google doc for good sentence starters and conjunctions.
- Conclusion: Always stay on track in addressing the essay statement. Conclude each paragraph with something that links to either your topic sentence or the essay statement itself. You can reuse some of the key words from the essay statement (but not verbatim, that is too simplistic). Also, take note of the command term of the question; do what you are “commanded” to do.
Some good links:
- Signpost, signpost, signpost your argument. Great list here. Print it off.
- Go to the Google Drive for a “How to write a history essay” handout. This document also contains an extensive list of sign post words.
- General essay writing resources here
- Monash University has a very clear and informative website about academic writing. This page is about how to analyse an historical argument: http://www.monash.edu.au/lls/llonline/writing/general/academic/5.xml
- Here is a page about how to structure a paragraph etc: http://www.monash.edu.au/lls/llonline/writing/general/academic/4.1.xml
- Info from Monash on a printable document here
Here’s a good question for you: Why can’t I just use Google for my research? The pros and cons can be found here.
Love your conjunctions:
Agreement / Addition / Similarity
Opposition / Limitation / Contradiction
Examples / Support / Emphasis
Conclusion / Summary / Restatement
in the first place
not only … but also
first, second, third
by the same token
although this may be true
of course …, but
on the other hand
on the contrary
at the same time
in spite of
even so / though
be that as it may
in other words
for one thing
as an illustration
in this case
for this reason
that is to say
important to realize
another key point
first thing to remember
most compelling evidence
must be remembered
point often overlooked
to point out
on the positive / negative side
with this in mind
notably, including, like, namely, chiefly, truly, indeed, certainly, surely, markedly, especially, specifically, expressively, surprisingly, frequently, significantly, such as,
as can be seen
in the final analysis
all things considered
as shown above
in the long run
given these points
as has been noted
in a word
for the most part
by and large
to sum up
on the whole
in any event
in either case
all in all
— John Mitchell (@Jivespin) September 14, 2013
At the time of writing, importing images in Taxuedo is still in Beta so you can still import images for free. I will soon be doing Weimar and the Rise of Hitler again so I made two Taxuedos, one of Hitler and one of Stresemann. I used the Wikipedia entries as my sources list, but took some Wikipedia specific words such as: Edit, Navigation, pp, Wikipedia out of the word list. It is interesting to see the differences between the two.
A clickable version of the Wikipedia entry on Hitler below: Continue reading