Next week we’ll be running our workshop on how to take students from 30+ to 40+ scores in VCE English. As usual, we’ll be sharing lots of practical writing strategies about how to develop the sophistication of student work in each area of English. But we’ll also be focusing on the thing that nourishes good writing: good ideas. While vocabulary instruction and effective brainstorming tend to go hand in hand (you can’t have complex ideas unless you have complex language to think about them in the first place), we’ll also be focusing on thinking routines: strategies which primarily focus on training the brain to think abot ideas and information strategically.
A thinking routine is any structure, prompt or scaffold we give to students that will help fire, guide or organise their thinking. And our English classes are full of them. For example, simply getting students to brainstorm connections between two texts in a similarities/differences T chart is a thinking routine, because you’re providing a structure to students to help organise their thinking. However, our task next week will be to show teachers thinking routines that help students develop more advanced ideas to fuel more advanced writing. Here’s an example of one we’ll be discussing:
This thinking routine scaffolds students to move from concrete ideas to more advanced ones. It works most effectively for text analysis where students begin by brainstorming what words to describe a character. For many students this is where there thinking usually stops in a text response essay. However, using this thinking routine students need to move on to consider how an author shows us that the character is like this. Finally, students think about the purpose. Why does the author present the character like this? By moving through each of these stages of thinking, students are more likely to analyse how and why a text works they way it does, rather than simply listing what characters are like. The chart below provides students with some scaffolding to brainstorm ideas for the second and third columns. You can provide more text specific lists for students to choose from to scaffold them more.
|A character is…||The author shows us this through…||The author represents this about the character to show…|
|*focusing on, highlighting, emphasising, describing…
*what a character does/says/wears
*how a character compares/contrasts in what they do/say/wear to another
*the problem of…
*the way…can lead to…
*so the audience can realise/see…
In this next chart, we see how the same What-How-Why process can be used to compare characters from different texts. The key here is that we extend students’ thinking by getting them to move beyond simply what makes two characters similar or different, to the bigger picture: what messages is each text trying to convey and how do they use their characters to show this?
|Anna (Year of Wonders)
||Proctor (The Crucible)
|What is the character like?|
|How does the text show it?|
|Why does the text characterise
the character like this? What is the purpose?