Classroom teachers all agree with formative assessment because it seems intuitive: teach the student the exam, and they will do better.

Yet at what point does formative feedback occur? Perhaps at the moment the student needs it, during a drafted answer? How does that look in a class of 20, 30, 40 students? Does the student receive ‘verbal feedback’? 

One option is to look at a single person’s essay with the whole class, and hope that correct issues in one essay will make the students think about their own essay can be corrected. 

How does looking at one person’s essay in a lesson apply to helping everyone else?  The leap is sometimes quantum because formative assessment should aim to affect a student’s mind. That is, if the student is not thinking about how they are doing what they are doing, then is it really effective?

A common issue in literary analysis is creating an effective topic sentence. Is it meant to be a sentence about what is happening in the text? Should it contain context relating to the title? 

How easy is the concept of a topic sentence? Can a student conceptualise what a topic sentence is? Should a teacher problematise what a topic sentence might be? 

Is a topic sentence as straightforward as saying ‘what the argument of the essay’ might be? An argument in a literary essay is different from that of other subjects, radically so. Even saying terms like ‘recycle the key word’ suggests that the argument is primarily ‘reusing a word’, albeit with images of the word becoming threadbare with each use.

The choice of metaphor is meaningful. How about ‘reactivating’ the keyword, instead? Each time you can ‘enhance’ or ‘imbue’ that keyword with meaning created before. 

Literary analysis, especially at IB, is also one of the models whereby the semantic ‘argument’ also somehow needs to acknowledge the literary technique element. How does that need to focus on a literary technique fit into an essay-driven argument?   

Take A Christmas Carol: if the students cannot recreate conceptual language for how Scrooge changes, how can they create an effective topic sentence? Is it possible just from the concept of ‘a sentence that tells us the argument?’

Say they have words like: mean, unpleasant, selfish… can these be tiered? 

mean to those who work for him
mean to those who rely on him
purposefully cruel to his subordinates? 
malicious to his employees? 

Is there room for some exploration of these conceptual terms, and how the students might ‘add value’ in their line of enquiry?