Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Age of Exploration continued


We really dug into the Age of Exploration, formerly known as the Age of Discovery, working to answer the question that came up during a class discussion a few weeks ago: why was it the Europeans doing all the exploring? We explored a possible answer to this by watching parts 1  & 2 of the documentary based on Jared Diamond's book Guns, Germs, & Steel. Students were asked to develop an understanding of Diamond's theory of "geographic luck" and consider if it holds up. Most thought it did, but a few had some concerns centred around problems with deterministic theories such as this not taking into account individual actions and decisions, an issue echoed by some in critique of this theory. (Good job, grade 8s!)

We will now keep this theory in mind as we move into a case study of the Age of Discovery/ Exploration/Expansion, the intercultural contact between the Aztec and Spanish Empire of the 16th century.

Next Level Writing

We started last week exploring the five-paragraph essay as a model of "academic" writing, examining its pros, and its cons. Some specifics include:

  • introductions (hook, general to specific, thesis)
  • body paragraphs
  • conclusions (touch back, hit the heart, look to the future, and zinger)
  • topic sentences
  • just write it
    • This refers to novice writers' use of superfluous phrases such as "In this essay I am going to" or "I believe that." While there may be a place for phrases like this in certain types of communication, I am encouraging students to avoid telling me what they are going to write, and to just write it!

Now, students are re-writing their Renaissance test long answer responses (I am referring to them as a mini-essay) and working to utilize the positive aspects of the form we have examined. I have purposely organized this in a way that students are forced to work in drafts, returning to their revisions with fresh eyes every day or so. Through an informal poll, all students are making changes, and most are making significant changes to format, and some even to content.