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Context Essay Advice
Survivors of conflict are forever shaped by their experiences.
You must do the thinking before you begin. Too many of the responses accepted the prompt as it is, agreed with it rather than challenge it and did not really ask themselves what the ‘BIG’ ideas in it were.
A survivor of conflict
– must surely be someone who has been in a situation that is life threatening in some way and fits what we understand conflict to be – a clash of ideas etc – so surviving a shark attack, or being the one alive after a partner has passed on (without a conflict being involved) are not the kind of survivors this prompt is asking about. The more obvious survivors of conflict are soldiers, citizens in war zones, and refugees. Many of these people do not survive. There are also those who ‘survive ‘ other kinds of things like personal crises – illness, depression, financial losses etc – do they fit in this prompt? These are the questions you need to ask yourself.
Then there is the question of how they survived – what contributed to this? Was it chance? Their choices? Their attitudes, values and beliefs that contributed to their survival? What specific conflicts are we referring to when considering each one?
The second part of the topic makes a very black and white statement that should not be accepted without question – ‘
means just that – unflinching, unchanging, always affected. Really? Is our experience of surviving a conflict going to have a
permanent long lasting effect
on us? Doesn’t that depend on lots of other things? Personality, attitudes, values, beliefs, skills, talents, chance, fate, opportunity, finance, relationships, family......Don’t these things also ‘shape’ who we are?
also needs defining – it is about who we become as people – it suggests we have bent, been moulded, or become something as a result of the conflict experience. – Sure – no doubt that happens – but what else does this? Consider the list above!
So – those who chose to simply argue the contention that was the
exact same wording
as the prompt left themselves poorly positioned to argue well and provide good rebuttal. Those who took the expository path were often too busy illustrating how the prompt idea can be seen to be true without considering the ways in which it was not. This limited the depth and complexity of thinking in their work. Imaginative pieces sometimes forgot they were supposed to be revealing the impact of conflict experiences in the long term on survivors as well as their knowledge of ‘conflict’ and the set text.
Of course all of this begins with the thinking! Consider the use of mind maps to do this in the future!
Remember the triangle
You do need to find a good balance!
Too many students did not have enough
between their piece of writing and
the issues, ideas and arguments of the text
. It is not enough to simply imitate the style of the author, or rewrite his story in a new country, or rewrite his story with new characters. You must demonstrate and understanding of the themes of the text – the ideas, arguments and issues in relation to what the author is suggesting about encountering conflict –
you must choose those bits which have relevance to the prompt. We had some wonderful writing that did not score well because this part of the task was not met. At the same time – some made good use of the text but their work showed narrow understanding of the Context ‘Encountering conflict’ (which comes out if you do not stop and consider just what is meant by ‘conflict’ and ‘survivor’.
You must have a clear idea in your head of your purpose, audience and form. Many so called persuasive pieces were not persuasive – they were expository and supported the concept of the prompt with examples. They did not argue a specific contention or make use of PLT’s. Some expository pieces included plt’s and tended to actually argue a specific case. Some imaginative pieces illustrated poor research of the text and the Context Encountering Conflict. As a result they suffered in depth and complexity. There was also poor understanding of the features of such writing in many cases.
– inform and explain
The purpose is to explore the key ideas from the prompt ( the 4 key words) – both the ways in which it can be seen to be true and the ways it is not. Good ones explore the shades of grey. Topic sentences develop a specific element of the topic and lead into explanation and example. Examples need to be specific wherever possible. Do not generalise. A third person formal voice does not have to be maintained if using a personal anecdote to illustrate a point but don’t make it all about you either. The switch from third to first person should have been noted in explanations. Better pieces used a wide variety of examples from a broad range – they were precise, specific and did much more than a basic 5 paragraph essay. Conclusions must focus on the ideas, not restate the examples. Many had something good to say in the conclusion that was NOT developed in the body – ie – in doing the essay they were doing the thinking and came up with the good ideas at the end rather than before they began.
You must develop a contention and it does not have to be (probably should not be) the prompt. It must be something that can be argued – that people will either support or reject. You must include rebuttal arguments and should have a clear persuasive voice.
On this topic you could have argued – When it comes to war survivors are forever shaped by their experiences, often in a negative way.
Encounters with conflict contribute both positively and negatively to who we become as people, especially if our life has been threatened.
People with strongly held values and attitudes such as faith and forgiveness are less likely to be changed or altered when surviving conflict
Refugees and asylum seekers have positive things to offer Australia and deserve to be given the best chance at survival in their new environment.
Both expository and persuasive essays often suffered from poor organisation of ideas into paragraphs and a lack of linking when moving from one idea to another.
If you are going to write a short story make sure it is a short story – it should have a plot, setting and character, a conflict and resolution. It should use an appropriate range of figurative language – metaphor, simile, imagery, symbols. It should engage the reader with appropriate dialogue between characters and be written with an active voice. It’s central theme or idea should reflect what your understanding of the prompt is as well as your knowledge of supplementary texts, the Context, etc
If writing a letter make sure it is a letter.
If giving a personal recount of an event label it as personal imaginative writing not a short story – but once again be sure to make use of literary devices to make the piece worth reading.
In all of the above the central theme or message from the author (you) needs to reflect your understanding of ideas/issues/arguments present in both the prompt and the text. Many creative responses were far too thin in this regard. Many stories were retellings of predictable plots based on one simple single part of Najaf’s story, The Kite Runner or other text – you need to be original and complexity needs to come from the theme/issue/topic, not the ‘what happened’.
The other problem was some of you set yourselves up with complex plots and ‘told’ what happened. This is ignoring some things such as the audience who are familiar with the background, a need to engage a reader and make them read on, developing an issue or theme – a message for the reader. There also needs to be believability – US troops are not likely to open fire indiscriminately these days, Afghanistan does not have a shore line or ocean – it is landlocked, you would not be treated as a captured prisoner in Woomera – Najaf’s experience indicates that only those who behaved with violence were incarcerated but clearly the Australian rules for human rights for all prisoners would still have applied.
The weakest part of these was ‘language’. Your language choices depend very much on what you are writing – but in everything you do you are attempting to influence a reader – so the questions is how does your language do this? ‘formal’ ‘informal’ describes voice, simple and sophisticated describe style – they still tell us little specific understanding of your language choices – do you use figurative language(simile, metaphor, imagery) emotive language, powerful word choices, dialogue, etc. In describing your language you should also be providing a specific example to illustrate you know what you are talking about.
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