WWI ‘in Focus’

In Focus (@in_focus) is running a 10 part photo series with explanatory captions on World War I. Excellent!

 

 

 

Tweets of the Week

I am about to jump on a plane to Kuala Lumpur for IGCSE Global Perspectives workshop, so only a quick post this week.

Anzac Day dominated much of the week for Aussies, and I came across a photo from @gcnelson which reminded me I’d been at the Australian War Memorial for Anzac Day in 2013 (another PD opportunity/junket!) It is an incredible place.

Greg is also worth a follow for some fabulous pictures around Canberra.

Still on WWI (there might be a bit of WWI this year!):

Not a tweet, but I also found an excellent bibliography of the Vietnam War:

http://www.clemson.edu/caah/history/facultypages/edmoise/arvn.html - a few dead links, a few you need JSTOR access, but lots of good ones.

One that ‘TOK Teacher’ found (disclaimer: my Theory of Knowledge twitter account!) that quotes a study which claims handwritten note taking is more effective than laptops – we tend to analyse & paraphrase as we write by hand but many are quick enough typists to pretty much type every word without taking in the information.


A cheeky cartoon to finish – the importance of knowing the context of a place or event in understanding cartoons, not to mention the irreverence of cartoonists

Taking notes from long articles

(How to be a nerd and still leave yourself enough time for more important stuff)

What is your purpose for reading this? It is probably an essay title – but also: is this for background, it is on the ‘required reading’ list, you are looking for a different viewpoint, or you are looking for just a couple of supporting points / examples / quotes to back up what you already have?

  • write it at the top of your page
  • now write the FULL bibliographic details for this source
  • Note the heading.
  • Note sub-headings.
  • Read Intro.
  • Read Conclusion.

(Any ideas on your topic yet? Can you work out a basic premise of the whole article? Is it worth still reading?)

  • Skim each section.
  • Read the first paragraph or so.
  • Skim the rest of the section, but paying special attention to topic sentences.
  • In the headings or the topic sentences does it suggest any quotable phrases?

(Can you get enough for what you need from this? Try to write a sentence or two which summarises each section)

  • Does it give a list?
  • What examples does it suggest?
  • Does it quote others? (Are they worth YOU quoting?)

You have probably got the gist of the article and enough to use in your essay without having actually read every word.

BUT

  • is it interesting enough that you want to read every word? Go ahead!
  • is it important enough that you need to read every word? Get on with it!

‘The greatest Australian you [Year 9] have never heard of’

I had a great lesson today as part of our unit on Australian identity. After looking at Aussie stereotypes I wanted them to go home and find 3-5 amazing Australians they had never heard of. I was impressed with the range of people they came up with and the depth of detail they had written down, so I found a fillable knockout tournament sheet and we proceeded to judge who we thought was the greatest Australian from our list.

Initially in groups of four, two presented their great Australian while the other two decided who they thought was the greater. Any ties was initially sorted by ‘surrender’ (your person deserves to win) or else decided by the classroom’s Final Arbiter (who did not need to be consulted).

The winners of each group found their next opponent and took with them their vanquished first round opponent. This continued through to the semi-final stage, when the last four presented in front of the whole class.

The final was between William Lawrence Bragg (x-ray analysis of crystals, DNA) and Fred Hollows (eye care/surgery, especially in indigenous communities). Representing Bragg was a tall, eloquent, Australian member of the school debating team versus a shy and quiet Indonesian girl who was so excited that ‘she’ won. This was an unexpected bonus out of the activity!

Below are the top 16 (there were a few preliminary knockouts to get it down to sixteen).

Year 9 Australian History

‘The Greatest Australian You’ve Never Heard Of’ – Year 9 History

(How typical is Hollows as a ‘great Aussie’? He was actually born in NZ…)

Effective formative essays – without marking every word

We know it is excellent practice for students to write formatively. The down side of course is the huge amount of marking that it creates if every week you have to mark every essay for every student for every class. Say goodbye to your weekend!

For senior classes who need to practise handwriting essays under time constraints in preparation for exams, I get them to write formative essays quite regularly but tell them that I am only going to focus on one or two of the following aspects – and they are absolutely NOT going to be getting ‘a mark’ – they will get comments.

  • Introduction
  • Topic sentences
  • Plan (and adherence to it)
  • Specific historical information / examples
  • Historiography
  • Highlight each place where you used key words from the question
  • Highlight / comment where you tried to improve based on comments from last week
  • Referencing
  • Bibliography – format, academic, used in text etc.

The other way of marking essays is peer marking. Using the criteria used in the exam, get students in groups of 3-4 to mark and comment on each others’, then give feedback. This one is best done with prior warning: it is a great incentive for a little bit more attention if they know their peers will be seeing it. And they are often far more critical on things like handwriting than we ever are! Only after they have had some experience in marking work they are not emotionally invested in do I get them to mark and comment on their own.

As far as questions go, again I structure it from me giving the specific question, to ‘come up with an appropriate question on …’ until towards the end of the course it is even less structured ‘These are the syllabus requirements: you give me a plan of what and when you will be writing essays and what aspect you want me to look at.’

What I am aiming for is a self-sufficiency that will see them able to construct a study plan for when they are at university and the ability to be self-critical. Of course, the last few revision weeks before exams I will mark and comment on everything that they submit.

I hope this gets your students working, and gives you some spare time!

History topics that are ‘overdone’ by students each year

This is my (edited) response to a question on the IBO’s ‘Online Curriculum Centre’ History Forum, asking if the question ‘To what extent was the dropping of the atomic bombs necessary for a U.S. victory in the Pacific War?’ was ‘overdone’.

I understand teachers’/examiners’ complaints about certain topics being ‘overdone’, but I think it misses the fundamental aspect of teaching: each year a new cohort is introduced to content that is new to them. And so what to us is the same old boring questions about WWII or Nazis or Cold War are for each new cohort of students the fundamental questions that they want to get their heads around. Perhaps it is time we started offering other aspects of history beyond military/political – or choose to offer topics that we have not taught for the last twenty years. It seems to me that we still offer a very (western European) Cold War-centric understanding of twentieth century history. Is it because it is the most important (as defined how/when?), it is what most of us were initially trained in or have taught for years, or it makes sense of the present?

Of the OP’s question (and most ‘overdone’ questions) I think that it can be answered simply by a younger years student or in can be answered in a great deal of depth with research, drawing connections between events and decisions and the use of primary documents which provide the rationale for the decisions: which should be the difference between a 10 or a 22 for the IA, not whether the examiner has seen the question before.

I struggle with the concept that students need to come up with something original – they are final year high school students doing 6 subjects, plus TOK & EE, not PhD students dedicating four years to one tiny subset of one area of one subject area.

I also think that we mark far too hard – surely someone else out there thinks 67% for a 7 is a joke – and we expect too much from teenagers to produce in a forty-five minute exam essay. I am absolutely for academic rigour, but not to the point where the IB cannot give exemplars of what a 25 for an IA looks like or examiners at subject workshops have only ever seen 16/20 for essays.

For all the rhetoric of creating inquirers, risk takers and problem solvers, we do not encourage it (in either teachers or students) when it comes to putting university entrance on the line.

A good IA should be able to stand on its own, whether the question appears every year or not: it is this student’s first foray into the topic even if the examiner has seen it 1000 times.