From anecdote to argument: using the word processor to connect knowledge and opinion through revelatory writing


By Jayne Prior, Peter D. John, published 1st November 2000

Jayne Prior and Peter John argue that it is time to build upon what has been learned about historical writing using ICT and to acknowledge both opportunities and dangers in some current and popular practice. Critical of some of the weaker uses of ‘cut and paste’ activities, where pupils are left simply to ‘phrase spot’, and where even comprehension is not achieved let alone analysis, they advance a different model in which a stronger emphasis is placed on pupils’ historical knowledge. Jayne and Peter have experienced encouraging success through modelling a process in which pupils amplify and enrich a deliberately dull, prosaic text – a text that does little more than convey bland information. Crucially, the material used for the enrichment process is garnered from pupils’ own ideas and suggestions as well as from the teacher’s additional input. Moreover, both the pupils’ motivation to carry out the task and their ability to go beyond the enrichment material provided are rooted in their prior knowledge. The teaching process exploits to the full the pupils’ delight in the colour and detail of the past – secured during earlier lessons – whilst supporting them in making selections that will create a focused argument. The authors conclude with ideas for supporting and challenging different abilities, including the use of audio material to support the lower ability groups.

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