As noted in my earlier post – Inquiry blog 1 I was concerned about the level of detail, structure and lack of explanation in my level two geography class. A number of students were using bullet points to write their assessments and generally their work lack the detail required at level 2. After speaking to teachers in the English department about this I wondered if this was potentially an issue with students creating subject specific silos and not transferring skills from one classroom to another. As mentioned previously I wanted to overcome this block and decided to address this with the class. We went over “How to write an essay in geography” using adapted resource material from an English class (see blog 1). This reinforced essay writing skills and emphasised their place within a geography context.
I wanted to work on the paragraph, structure, flow and level of detail and critical thinking within written work with this particular group over the year and decided a useful starting point would be to ask the class to write an essay without the pressure of assessment. The logic behind this was for me to gain a bit more insight what students writing looked like (at this stage I had only seen one assessment) and also to provide a space for me to give writing specific feedback.
As we were beginning a new unit “Conducting Geographic research with direction” – students were going to decide where a new Coffee shop should be located in GI. However, as we started on this topic I realised students at Tamaki College didn’t seem to have a good understanding of New Zealand’s Coffee Culture – this was a foreign concept to the class and their knowledge of “coffee culture” was limited to Mc Cafe, Nescafe or “Mum’s weekly coffee from the bakery on pay day”. I realised for students to engage with this research project I would need to provide some context for the class. So I decided to combine this with essay writing. I asked students to read some information about Wellington’s Coffee Culture – pick a theme that was interesting to them and write about it.
I gave students several lessons to work on their essays and asked them to share these with me. I explained I was going to give feedback around structure only and explained a traffic light system. As a class we were using the TEXAS model (topic sentence or statement, explanation, example, analysis and summary/link). I then explained I would highlight green where they had provided a clear statement. Orange where there was an explanation, yellow if they had provided evidence or an example and purple where they had linked back to the question.
My goal here was to encourage students to be more reflective and hopefully develop skills to check their own work by providing feedback. I looked over students work and highlighted using the fore mentioned color codes and then wrote a comment.
Here is an example of the type of feedback I was giving:
While some students responded well to this type of feedback I got the sense it was a little intimidated and overwhelming for others. I then thought about it and realised I have my own anxieties about writing and commenting on everything was probably not helping students who already lacked confidence. I need to reconsider my approach and find another strategy to improve the literary of level 2 students in geography.