|3 make student thinking visible|
A feature of poor formal communication, oral and multi-modal as well as written, is a lack of organization at both the whole text and the sentence level.
It is common to find one point appear,
apparently at random, in a number of places in a text rather than being
gathered into a single paragraph. Similarly, sentences often meander with
the end bearing little obvious logical connection to the beginning. They
are semantically/ grammatically compromised because the writer often starts
sentences without a clear idea of how to end, let alone how the whole
text will be organised. They may not have been explicitly taught how to
structure responses so little wonder plagiarism is a tempting alternative.
In other cases students simply think the quickest way to complete the
task is to write until the word limit is achieved. This results in a jumbled
flow-of-consciousness style that is next to impossible to untangle and
provide meaningful feedback.
An excellent way to develop this understanding
is teaching them to use Word as an ‘ideas-processor’. Word
processors are typically used as clever typewriters able to edit and make
text look pretty. There are however, more powerful tools and Word’s
best-kept secret is the Outline function. Accessed from the view menu,
outline facilitates the simple creation of a hierarchy of points that
can easily be moved around by dragging them to the desired position. Thus,
students could start with a generic scaffold of a text type, eg, argument
and then fill in the points for and against together with supporting evidence.
Headings and subheadings can be expanded or collapsed at will revealing
the structure of a text. The outline can be used for conferencing and
becomes evidence of process. Paragraphs can be completed in any order
and the introduction may be written last when the writer knows precisely
what is being introduced. Text creation was previously constrained because
the typewriter (or pen) necessitated starting at the beginning and working
through to the end. Many people are still bound by this ‘typewriter
thinking’. Even though they may cut, paste and edit in ways impossible
before they have yet to realize the full potential of the technology and
a more free-form way of working. Because it is easy to save and print
at different stages, an audit trail is created that provides evidence
for the virtuous and makes it more difficult for the plagiarist, hence
the importance of insisting on using such planning tools.
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All original photographs © J G Taylor, 2005
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