Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Exams and Essay Writing

This week is senior exam week. Students have been busy working on assessments, studying for exams and trying their best to come up with strong points for their essays.

From what I've read so far - my Y12 class have done okay. Some have forgotten to add the author's intent but they are alluding to it in their paragraphs.

I've talked before about the structure I get my students to use. It's super effective for teaching clear structure, to stop plot summaries from the outset and more importantly to make sure when students are making their closing statements for each paragraph, that they truly connect with the text and what the author/director intended.

Below is an embedded Google Doc of the Essay structure that I give my students.

I found the structure on a Hillcrest High School class site where they used it for poetry analysis a couple years ago. It has worked wonders in my classroom and is hugely more effective, in my experience, than a SEXY paragraph.

I naturally write essays this way but it's hard for students to grasp how when they've been given the SEXY structure and asked to make a response. The problem they come to is the Y section as it isn't scaffolded enough for them to fully encapsulate all of the areas around their response.

So the SEXIST structure works better. Am actually thinking of changing it to SEXISM.... not that that sounds any better... I'll explain.

Statement: What is the point that they're trying to make?
Example: What is an example of this?
Explanation: Why is this important?
Intent: What is the director/author trying to teach us?
Societal Connection: How can we relate to this?
Theme or Message: What do we learn overall from this example and point?

These markers in their paragraphs are only there as a guide. The students who can achieve Excellence often don't use any particular structure as their ideas are structured effectively as they write and they show flair in their style and focus.

I started using this structure with my juniors last year so that they can practice the style needed and also improve their ability to write their pghs in a short space of time in preparation for next year.
The Y12s this year that have had a couple years of this have found their essays flow much more easily and they are achieving better in other subjects needing structured paragraphs too.

It has been good to see students connecting with this as they understand what is expected from them.
When I connect the structure to SOLO Taxonomy, they can see the differing levels.

Statement, Example and Explanation: Multistructural (Achieved)

Statement, Example, Explanation and Intent or Societal: Relational (Merit)

Statement, Example, Explanation, Intent, Societal and Theme/Message the audience learns: Extended Abstract (Excellence)

If they can see what is needed they're more likely to be able to hit those targets as they can achieve more clearly based on what is actually required rather than seeing a question and giving a very base answer, with no evidence or personal connection.