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Essay Writing Skills at AS Level


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#16 Richard Drew

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Posted 13 May 2003 - 07:48 PM

The History Review article 'How to write an essay under Exam conditions' is still available for free


An excellent article.

Isn't it lovely when you read and article that confirms that the approach you have taken all year is just right!!!

Perhaps slightly off track and maybe not relevant to AS history, but my AS sociology classes had their external exam today (thats right their real exam on May 13th :upset: ). A very specific structure was required for their essay question and so i developed a good mnemonic that really seems to work:

M ost O rganised S tudents P repare W ork P roperly

(Method Operationalise Sampling Problems Weaknesses Presentation)

Does anyone else have anything similar in their subject?
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#17 Richard Jones-Nerzic

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Posted 13 May 2003 - 07:59 PM

How to write an Essay' article by Gareth Affleck is no longer free and is only available to subscribers to the magazine or on a pay-for-view basis.


If anyone would like a copy of the above article, PM me. However much I may dislike pay-per-view websites, particularly those that tease with temporary free material, I don't want to get into trouble for using copyright material on my site.

Edited by Richard Jones-Nerzic, 17 May 2003 - 11:47 AM.

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#18 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 13 May 2003 - 08:11 PM

M ost O rganised S tudents P repare W ork P roperly

(Method Operationalise Sampling Problems Weaknesses Presentation)

does anyone else have anything similar in their subject?

Only the PEEL one I mentioned before or - especially at A2 level - PEEEL

P = Point
E = Evidence
E = Explanation
(E = Evaluation)
L = Link (back to question and/or on to next para)

So I say "Don't forget to PEEL each Paragraph". This is much better = for all sorts of reasons B) - than "PEE each Paragraph"

#19 CCulpin

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 07:57 PM

I'm a month late on this topic, but the problem of students giving you the answer to the question they wish you'd asked, or you did in the mock, or whatever, doesn't go away. An idea I've tried at GCSE is to get the class doing a card-sort (cards with the main points and facts and names and factors), in answer to a question. When they've got all their nice little groups and rows ready - Change the question!
Immediately the patterns they have created look wrong and the cards - the same cards- have to be re-arranged.
And that's what they have to do with what they've revised when they get into an exam.

#20 m242

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Posted 11 June 2003 - 11:32 AM

I thought Chris Culpin's idea was really good one, and I will try it with my trainees next year. I also feel that Christine Counsell's 'Great Fire of London' exercise (page 42, Analytical and discursive writing at Key Stage 3, London, Historical Association 1997) is a very powerful model for getting across the idea of 'question relevance' as against 'topic' relevance- even for AS students.

When I taught 'A' level, I used to deliberately try to set a trap for students to lure them into writing an essay on 'what we talked about last lesson', rather than on the question posed, and mark it severely, as would happen in the exam proper. So, we would talk about which country was most responsible for the outbreak of WW1, and I would then set an essay, 'To what extent did tension in the Balkans lead to the outbreak of WW1'. Some students would adjust the focus of their essay accordingly, others would feel impelled to trot out what we had talked about in the lesson.

This might sound a nasty thing to do, and I think that it would be appalling practice for an exam board to try and 'trap' pupils in this way, but I felt that some students did need this point making in a really powerful way to get them to think about it all the time. Having spent two or three hours on an essay and being given 0 out of 20 for it because it does not address the question posed does make students think hard about their next essay. I did try to be nice to them afterwards, and explain that I was trying to be cruel to me kind etc.

Terry Haydn, UEA

#21 Richard Drew

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Posted 28 June 2003 - 03:53 PM

Thought it would be worth mentioning (now that i have remembered the relevance of it!!) that i always use an OHP template when we have a class discussion to formulate essay plans.

It requires the pupils to undergo the entire thought process; identify the core of the question, briefly identify what will be in the introduction, identify each P, E and E and then write a conclusion.

This is then fully laid out on the whiteboard for the whole class to see, and jot down to help with essays or revision.

If anyone wants me to e-mail them a copy please PM me :)
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#22 Serrie Meakins

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Posted 16 July 2003 - 03:14 PM

Lots of good ideas here to mull over in the summer hols!
One of the things I find very useful at AS is to produce old essays for the students to analyse - they then work out good & bad practise for themselves. But although this works well for Tudors & Hitler, I can never find good resources for Mussolini. Anyone got any good websites where I might find old AS essays on Muss & fascism?
I find a common difficulty is understanding essay titles so I do a huge amount of work on analysing essay titles as a group [key words in title/ topic area/ what is the Q limiting you to etc]. I even do primary school matching exercises on the meanings of words like 'Assess, explain and analyse' until i am convinced they all know exactly what they mean. Then every time we finish a topic I give them a selection of essay Q, and they plan them in groups. Each group then presents their plan/thinking on board. This speeds up planning & enhances thinking enormously. They hate doing it at first but by the end thay always say it was really helpful!
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#23 Richard Drew

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Posted 13 September 2003 - 04:09 PM

the following webpage (designed for politics students, but i'm sure relevant for histroy students too) is now up and running

How to write a politics essay

the OHPs i mentioned in an earlier post are now available as downloads on this page

Edited by Richard Drew, 13 September 2003 - 04:10 PM.

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#24 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 14 September 2003 - 01:30 PM

Thank you for this Richard - and great to see the first page of your fledgling web site too :teacher:

As we go into week three of the new academic year and I guess the first essays of the AS course are being set it is an appropriate time I suspect to 'refresh' this Seminar.


Serrie pointed out

I find a common difficulty is understanding essay titles so I do a huge amount of work on analysing essay titles as a group [key words in title/ topic area/ what is the Q limiting you to etc].


and I agree that this is a common problem. I don't think I ever did quite as much as Serrie describes to ram home what different questions require students to do, but I did produce a PowerPoint on 'Types of Essay Questions' which people may find helpful. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be possible to upload PPT files to the Forum, but I have converted it to a Word outline. Doesn't look quite so 'cool' but I guess people could import the text into their own PPT presentation if they wished.

Like Serrie I also used to do get students to analyse essays (good, bad and indifferent) using different coloured highlighter pens to identify the Point, the Evidence, the Explanation and the Link (see previous explanations about PEEL-ing paragraphs) and also to mark them themselves using the generic markscheme. All of which they seemed to find helpful.

PS I don't know why the file is identified by a QuickTime icon. It seems to download and open in Word OK.

Attached Files


Edited by Carole Faithorn, 14 September 2003 - 01:49 PM.


#25 Dom_Giles

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Posted 26 November 2004 - 08:08 AM

Have just stumbled accros this really useful (if old) seminar. But the link to Caroles PPP doesn't work. Does this exist elsewhere? it sounds really useful.

P.S. I have used something very similar to Richards Idea for PEE and they do seem to remember!

Thinking is SO important Baldrick. What do YOU think?
I think thinking is SO important, my Lord.


#26 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 26 November 2004 - 04:29 PM

Have just stumbled accros this really useful (if old) seminar. But the link to Caroles PPP doesn't work. Does this exist elsewhere? it sounds really useful.


It was a link to the Word outline of the PPT I used to use - not the PPT itself. Subsequently Andrew has disabled the upload/download files function on the Forum - which is why the link no longer works.

However, I still have the Word outline on my own hard drive so if you (and anyone else who wants this) PMs me with their email address I will send the file as an attachment.

#27 Andrew Field

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Posted 26 November 2004 - 04:58 PM

We can also reset the file on here. What happened is that I've disabled the general ability to upload and download files from the forum simply because it uses too much bandwidth. For individual files the links can still work, it is just forum upgrades stopped them working.

I'll sort this out later on :)


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#28 Mel

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Posted 27 November 2004 - 06:56 PM

This topic has resurfaced at a very convenient time for me! Some very helpful information! However, having just marked a set of AS essays, I have noticed a huge variation and problems in pupils' use of quotations. Does anyone have any advice and/or sheets that I could make use of to develop this skill with my pupils? I had something from my time at university but can't find it anywhere.

#29 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 27 November 2004 - 10:31 PM

....... I have noticed a huge variation and problems in pupils' use of quotations. Does anyone have any advice and/or sheets that I could make use of to develop this skill with my pupils? I had something from my time at university but can't find it anywhere.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


In my experience there are three 'problem areas' when it comes to students' use of quotations and I am not too sure whether you are referring to one of these, all three ... or something different.

1] One of the things I found is that some students find it hard to know how to 'weave' quotations into their own essays so we collectively (students and I) built up a bank of different ways of saying, "Professor Bloggs says ......"

Eg. 'Professor Bloggs makes the point that..../ asserts that ...../argues the case for .../' or 'Professor Bloggs contradicts this point /denies that...../ etc etc.

2] Linked with this is the view that many students seem to hold that it's good enough to use quotations from the work of academic historians as if they are some sort of god-given truth failing to realise that this cuts no ice with examiners unless the quotation is used to support/contradict what the student him/herself is saying OR if (preferably) the view in the quotation is evaluated.

So..... I used to clip bits out of student essays (or make them up if necessary!) and then discuss these in class. When their minds are sharply focussed on one thing like this they are usually pretty astute at seeing when a quotation is just being used for 'decoration'.

3] Finally there is the issue of which convention to use when using direct quotation from a book/article/website. Do you just put the source in brackets after the quotation? Do you footnote it? If so, which convention to do you use?

This is not a problem that crops up much at AS (unless I suppose it's in Coursework done out of class/not under exam conditions). It is a problem that occurs with A2 coursework. There I just used to give a handout with straightfoward instructions and examples to illustrate what to do. There are plenty of these guides on the Internet.
Try searching for "citation styles".
eg. Chicago Documentation Style


In the last resort your students need to understand that being able to quote from academic historians is NOT by itself credit worthy and that they are wasting their time trying to learn quotations off by heart for an exam unless they are able to use them to good effect. The absolutely crucial thing is that they are able to evaluate an argument used by an historian/historians. So work in the classroom which gives examples which you work together on evaluating can be useful as are 'frameworks' such as:

"Professor Bloggs argued that (quotation) and this is supported by (evidence). However, this fails to recognise that (evidence) so on balance his opinion is not as well supported as it would first seem."

In short, what you need to develop is their critical abilities.

Does any of this cover what you meant?

Edited by Carole Faithorn, 27 November 2004 - 10:53 PM.


#30 Mel

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Posted 28 November 2004 - 08:23 PM

Yes - it was the problem of weaving quotations into their essays I was thinking of. However, the rest of your advice will come in very handy too!
Thanks.




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