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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2013 3:01 pm 
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This primarily relates to students already in KS3, but I'm getting increasingly irritated by our daughters (at NLCS and HBS) being set homework that presupposes their ability to write proper essays, but without any decent teaching on how to go about writing an essay. So this mission falls to us, the parents.

When we were going around some of the schools with the girls, I asked if they were taught essay-writing and was told "yes", but I suspect I was asking the wrong people...

I have some pretty strong ideas about how to plan and construct an essay (and am less passionate about the "turn of phrase" within that structure). I reckon I could teach essay-writing quite well, but not to our daughters - It's a bit like getting your parents to teach you driving - a very bad idea!

So I wondered if this is a wide-spread concern, and whether there are any tutors who specialise in such things?

A pet theory of mine would be that instead of actually writing essays, some homework should be set that asks for mind-maps or just structured dot-points (so no prose!). Separating form from content should (in my not so humble opinion) help development of an argument to a point where the prosificiation (apologies to language-purists) of the material can be undertaken.

I'm also a big fan of Barbara Minto's technique of report-writing, the teaching (and practice) of which I feel should be mandatory in KS3/4.

Thoughts?


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PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2013 8:58 pm 
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Quote:
A pet theory of mine would be that instead of actually writing essays, some homework should be set that asks for mind-maps or just structured dot-points (so no prose!). Separating form from content should (in my not so humble opinion) help development of an argument to a point where the prosificiation (apologies to language-purists) of the material can be undertaken.
You would have thought so. When I was a TA, I heard teachers say to students don't forget to plan your work first but I don't think I ever saw a lesson on how to plan. It was certainly taught in the LS Dept though (I know because that was part of my job). It must be happening in some schools because I have googled, for example, Henry V111 - good or bad king? and have found a series of activities with levels leading up to writing the essay. The only thing I had to do was to rearrange the information so that it was both teacher and student friendly.
http://www.ashcroft.beds.sch.uk/resourc ... ssment.doc

A gripe that I have - and it starts at primary - is the setting of projects. Are they actually taught how to research information? I had to teach mine early because of the numerous projects DC were having and I'm still not sure they confidently know which websites are appropriate and how to avoid simply copying and pasting. I agree that certain skills aren't being taught thoroughly, but I wonder if it is a case of curriculum overload.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2013 12:51 pm 
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I would expect, perhaps wrongly, that they are doing the mind map/bullet point/discussion preparation in class prior to being set the essay writing task?...


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2013 1:16 pm 
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KS10 wrote:
A gripe that I have - and it starts at primary - is the setting of projects. Are they actually taught how to research information? .
Absolutely. Lazy teaching in my view - and usually a waste of a half term holiday to boot. Quite why teachers do this is beyond me - around half the class will bring in something which has clearly been done by the parents, and the other half won't bother and will scribble some rubbish down the night before it is due in. My lot were always in the latter camp because I point blank refused to waste my own time on it.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2013 2:37 pm 
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Makes me cross too. Mine do it in the morning before school on the dat it is due in. The instructions are usually like this "write about the Romans." We never see it again.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2013 8:17 pm 
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Of course the other thing that's a little worrying (particularly with regard to projects) is that there is no teaching about copyright and what constitutes theft of intellectual property. I guess it would make for great inconvenience....


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:30 am 
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BarnetDad wrote:
This primarily relates to students already in KS3, but I'm getting increasingly irritated by our daughters (at NLCS and HBS) being set homework that presupposes their ability to write proper essays, but without any decent teaching on how to go about writing an essay. So this mission falls to us, the parents.

When we were going around some of the schools with the girls, I asked if they were taught essay-writing and was told "yes", but I suspect I was asking the wrong people...

I have some pretty strong ideas about how to plan and construct an essay (and am less passionate about the "turn of phrase" within that structure). I reckon I could teach essay-writing quite well, but not to our daughters - It's a bit like getting your parents to teach you driving - a very bad idea!

So I wondered if this is a wide-spread concern, and whether there are any tutors who specialise in such things?

A pet theory of mine would be that instead of actually writing essays, some homework should be set that asks for mind-maps or just structured dot-points (so no prose!). Separating form from content should (in my not so humble opinion) help development of an argument to a point where the prosificiation (apologies to language-purists) of the material can be undertaken.

I'm also a big fan of Barbara Minto's technique of report-writing, the teaching (and practice) of which I feel should be mandatory in KS3/4.

Thoughts?


From what I've seen over the years (DC 1 and 2 at uni, DC3 in Y13, DC4 in Y11) they are taught how to write essays in so far as what to write to attain a good grade in GCSE / A level.

Would you call it good essay writing though?

With the variety of subjects and levels my DC have negotiated over the years I have noted that a copy of the subject / board specification is needed. Each subject / board / level has different things it wants to see in essays and the students are taught to meet these requirements.

Essay planning in this house is in the form of AO1, AO2, AO3.. point, evidence, explanation... etc. It's all about meeting the requirements. Even A level English Lit is full of AO's; A level RS seems more flexible.

We're (still) just jumping through the hoops of the education system.

By your definition (possibly), a 'good' essay might get a D grade and a poor one may get an A grade!
Don't you just love it! :D


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:37 am 
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PEE - `Point, evidence explain/explore' ('Pee all over your work', as one of my pupils was told) or variations on it (Point, evidence, analysis) is the winning formula for writing essays for GCSE. Combine it with the primary VCOP (from The Big Write - another formulaic writing tool) - Vocab, Connectives, Opening, Punctuation- and away you go, A* he we come!

Oh, you wanted creativity...? :?


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:43 am 
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Location: Berkshire
To be fair though, they need to know what they have to write to get the marks.

My son did his dissertation last year and asked us to have a read through and say what we thought. (It was duller than dull, and full of references). My OH who prides himself on writing reports and the like gave him a few pointers (not on the subject matter, just on the writing itself). He ignored them. He got a first in this. :lol:

I think we expect too much from our kids - essay writing depends on the subject. They're not really expected to write a novel in the style of Charles Dickens (mind you not many 16 year olds would want to), they are expected to deliver what they have learned and get as many marks as possible. Otherwise we will all be annoyed that they didn't get their 12 A*s or whatever. :lol:


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2013 9:52 am 
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Reminds me of a conversation my DD's teacher had with an A2 class last week.

The (poor) teacher was trying to discuss 'what was needed to make a good essay' and clearly the students were having none of it. As the teacher went round the class the responses were: Capital letters, full stops, commas etc.

In an attempt to encourage his students the teacher queried the structure of an essay.

He should have known better... the answers he got were: 'beginning, middle and an end'! :lol:
Must be the weather.


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