Carrying on from a range of literacy strategies to coincide with World Book Week, I decided to work on essays and formulating opinions with year 8 and 13. Having seen silent debates on various sites, including Mrs Humanities and GeoNewbs, I thought giving them a go could be great fun!
My pupils are not the best at opinions, they can be very opinionated verbally but often struggle to transfer these opinions into extended writing, relying on the opinions of others or utilising textbook material if at home. This is especially crucial with year 13 as they have a 40 mark essay in their A2 exam.
I placed a series of inflammatory/controversial/thought-provoking statements with a topic thread around the room and explained that a silent debate wanted to see their arguments on paper, as heated and as opinionated as possible. For year 13 this meant looking at a range of options ( encouraging synopticity) and for year 8 developing the use of appropriate support material.
The pupils really enjoyed the way of going about things, especially being able to argue at length with their peers! Year 8 then structured a piece of extended writing on Antarctic uses, looking at form, expansion and supporting their opinions with evidence.
Year 13 then used the arguments to create a 40 mark essay with a focus on a range of case studies and expansion of key ideas that enabled a clear conclusion. To extend further, I gave the arguments back at the start of the next lesson without the original statements to encourage the year 13s to see how they need to link their ideas back to the original question.
It was all jolly good fun and there has seemingly been a definitive surge in expansion quality of both years’ essay.