It’s Hell Week – sorry, Assignment Week, and karma has bitten me on the derriere (bum is so much nicer in French). Instead of my mother nagging me about my homework, I now have the glorious and well-appreciated duty of nagging my daughter. Having taught teenagers during a portion of my confused working life, my daughter receives the benefit of a teacher-on-tap and the drawback of a teacher-in-the-room. I have the struggle of guiding her so she can finish the assignment in the wee hours of the night versus the temptation to just getting the blinking thing done. Obviously, I have taken the more righteous path or I would not be blabbing to the cyber-sphere of how I did my child’s assessment.
So here are my Assessment Week Insights and Suggestions as a mother and ex-teacher to other worn out parents this week.
(Just a note that the essay writing tips are for a persuasive essay where there is a single line of argument.)
1. Diarise the due dates in a public place
This year, I did well with the first step. Ms 13 (after a little nagging) looked at the assignment list and wrote down the due dates on the family calendar. OK, some dates changed and some subjects missed the calendar entirely – remember next time!
2. Start foundation texts early
Next step, start hassling early for subjects that need large texts or specific scenes to be watched. Don’t assume that once foundation texts are covered that anything else will be done.
3. Don’t assume research will happen (or that they understand how to do it)
This week my family learned about the decline of the Aztec Empire or the fall of Techie-techie what (I had trouble with Tenochtitlan) – fascinating stuff. But if you think research will be anything beyond some Internet pages found a day or two before its due, think again. Discover the local library (the books at the school library will be gone, there are some kids who get it) and search for books and if you are lucky, more specific and recent journal articles. Ask the librarian how to do it. Better still take the teenager and get them to ask – there WILL be a next time.
You may need to do some reading to direct them to the right information but they need to read it. Let them know how you found it Eg I looked up the index or I looked at the titles. – yes, that basic. Show them how to use “Post-It” notes.
If it is a specific text like a novel that needs no other research, get them to read/skim through it again and tag anything which may answer the question or can be used as examples.
4. Just get them writing.
Some kids can write an essay from introduction to conclusion but this doesn’t work for all and often too much time is spent agonising over the introduction (or in our case, the font type). This is more important for time management in exams where the facts should already be known and an argument is easier to produce.
Having just pulled together some research there should at least be one starting point. One point is the first paragraph. Get them to write down their ideas with a new paragraph for each idea. Then get them to go back to their research (or text book if it is English) to look for specific examples to support these ideas.
5. Keep reminding them to go back to the question.
After writing a few points the argument or answer to the question should become clearer and it may be easier to go back to the introduction and write it.
What are you arguing?
Do you need to explain any terms for the reader?
What points will you raise to support your argument?
These should be covered in the introduction. If possible, try to integrate them for a more sophisticated and less formulaic essay.
The argument (or thesis) should run through each point and if possible, each point should introduce or lead to the next. Move the paragraphs around if it makes more sense but read it again to check that it flows.
6. Help them expand on ideas.
Using research, suggest they go back to each paragraph and see if the ideas can be expanded or given more detail. Are there any other examples and do they need further explanation. The immediate response will probably be “No” but persevere. If they will let you, read it and ask them to explain some of their ideas. Get them to include extra detail that they may talk about. Look for generalizations that will need to be changed to become more specific.
At this point in time my daughter came up with the idea of watching “Horrible Histories”. While I scoffed at the idea of how this would look on the bibliography, it turned out not to be such a bad idea (and “Horrible Histories” has awesome songs!)
7. Conclude the blinking thing
Conclusions are hard. Some kids just rewrite the introduction but I think a better way is to try to look at the big picture.
Has this event changed things in any way or has it been an influence on something else?
Is it an important event in context of the whole novel or film?
For example, we discovered that something we knew very little about – the fall of the Aztec Empire, effectively one city – had a huge impact in shaping the world we know today.
8. Have a stiff drink and expect this to happen again.
While not espousing the excessive use of alcohol, learning takes time and effort and sometimes that one-on-one help is needed, even if it is not wanted. Yes, they will hide the assessment timetable and avoid giving you the assignment hand-out (take multiple copies or scan it – it will be lost). They will clean their room rather then start research (WIN!) but eventually it will all pay off and they will leave home and have their own children – Yay for karma!
PS Yes, this is a very “hands-on” approach but I’m a big believer that a combined effort of home and school helps learning. It’s also purely some suggestions for those parents that have the capacity to be involved (with no guilt attached to those that can’t manage it. Hugs and kisses-I’ve been there) .