When students read a text, it is too easy to simply hand them a highlighter and ask them to highlight the conventions or focus of the lesson. While this is an effective strategy, it lacks rigour and depth that students could be achieving – especially students who need extension in their learning.
Another method to reading a text and identifying conventions is evaluating the effectiveness of that text. For example, identifying whether the conventions are present and how well they have been employed. This offers a unique opportunity to extend your students and encourage them to think more deeply than simply identifying. Instead, they will need to make comparison and judgements about the quality of the writing and how it could have been more effective.
- For the sake of this example, I would like to focus on feature articles. Start with having students develop a criteria or 5 rules for a feature article headline. What should a great headline include? Concise and direct. Catchy or humorous. Completing this activity will establish two things: it will activate your students prior knowledge and encourage them to evaluate. Once a criteria is involved students are no longer merely identifying. They must start testing their criteria and rationalising their understanding. This is a feature of evaluating.
2. Once students have their criteria, they will be able to start writing their own headlines, while ensuring that it meets the criteria that they developed. Your students are not in the Evaluating and Creating phase of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Expect the work to be more challenging so remember to provide examples of your own.
3. Your students are now familiar with the notion of writing a criteria. Now, they are ready to evaluate the feature article itself. Provide a table like the one below. Students will need to be able to identify whether the convention has been used in the feature article and explain to what extent. In the first box students can explain how the author has included the convention – they might like to draw direct quotes. In the second box, they can explain how they have used this convention and to what extent. For example, the convention may not be employed as sufficiently as it could be. Students can now offer ‘feedback’ explaining how the convention could be utilised on a deeper level.
If we compare this activity to Bloom’s Taxonomy, students are in the phase of assessing and validating in the Evaluating section of the table. A lesson that could easily focused simply on identifying the conventions has now focused on the quality of the writing. However, we can go further…
Now that students have spent some time identifying conventions and evaluating the quality of the feature article, they can mark on a scale the effectiveness of the writing. 0 should be assigned for least effective, where a limited use of conventions have been employed and to a limited extent. 10 should be very effective for texts that employ a wide range of conventions and enhance the writing. It is important that students spend time actually writing a brief summary/statement detailing their reasoning. This allows them to justify their thoughts rather than align with the consensus of the class. Use a values line to judge where the class sits with their perspectives of the article. Remember, ensure they provide reasoning.
This is the final activity for students to complete. At this point in the lesson, they have critically analysed what makes an effective feature article. A much more thorough activity than merely highlighting the conventions of a text.
- Students develop a criteria for a headline.
- Students write a headline using the criteria they developed.
- Students identify the conventions of a feature article.
- Students explain to what extent the convention has been utilised.
- Students explain how the conventions could be better employed in the text.
- Students mark on a scale how effective the feature article using the list of conventions from the previous activity.