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History essay by DD12 (7th grade)


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#1 PeachyDoodle

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Posted 24 January 2018 - 04:21 PM

Just thought I'd post one of my dd12's essays to get some feedback. I think she's doing well, but her work hasn't ever been evaluated by anyone but me. Any suggestions or observations welcome. Thanks!

 

(I did not include her footnotes/works cited because the formatting was wonky on here. They are in the original and used correctly.)

 

 

Children of the Industrial Revolution: The Hardest Workers of Their Time
 
It is a fine morning. The air is warm, the sun is shining, and everything is full of life. It is a perfect day for playing. But where are the children? They are inside of the factories, where they have been working since before dawn. They are toiling tirelessly for money to buy their next meal.
 
Around 1650, the Industrial Revolution began. It started in England and gradually spread out, until it covered almost all of America and Europe. During this time, new machines were invented and factories became a common sight.  As more machines were invented, more workers were needed in factories, and children were fit to do the job. Child laborers could be found in canneries, in coal mines, in textile mills, in glass factories, in cotton fields, in sugar beet fields, and on the streets of big cities. They could be found in England, in Germany, in France, in Belgium, and in America. "As soon as children were old enough to help, they worked alongside their parents."  Lots of children worked for more than 12 hours a day. Many of them had mangled or missing appendages from being caught in the machinery. "Their faces are young, but they dress like grown workmen with their jackets and overalls... and they don’t smile,"  said author Michael Burgan, in regard to a photograph of breaker boys.
 
There were many reasons for children to work. Families needed money, mills needed small workers, and children could be paid lower wages. "[Glass] factory owners claimed that they couldn’t operate without the labor of young boys, that workers over sixteen were too slow and clumsy to perform the boys' work... [and] cannery owners claimed that all family members were needed, because produce was highly perishable and needed to be canned quickly."   However, whether or not a child got a job was dependent on several conditions. If there was no work to be found, if the child's parents did not want him or her to work, or if the child's family was poor could all have an effect. For some jobs, such as coal mining, there was an age limit. However, many families were so desperate, they would lie about their children's ages and have them work dangerous jobs because they needed the money.
 
Some people thought that so many children endeavoring was wrong. The U.S government created the Federal Children's Bureau in 1912  to keep children from working in the factories, or at least create restrictions. Photographer Lewis Hine took many pictures of children working in factories, fields, and on the streets. He was determined to show people that the children were suffering. Laws were passed. Children had to go to school longer, limiting the time they could spend in the factories. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (U.S) limited the jobs younger children could work. However, progress in America was slow. In England, the Factory Act of 1833 had raised the ages at which children were allowed to work, and limited the hours that they could work. America was 100 years behind England and change was still a long ways away. 
 
Child labor was not some new, horrifying occurrence. For as long as anyone could remember, children had worked. They had helped harvest their father's fields; they had trained under the watchful eye of a blacksmith, or tailor, or cobbler, or butcher, or whoever their mentor happened to be. What made children employed in factories so dangerous and detestable was that the factory owners did not care for the children's health. "'The object of employing children is not to train them, but to get high profits from their work,'''  said photographer and Activist Lewis Hine. There was also lots of unprotected machinery that could easily rip off an arm, or leg, or even kill a small child.
 
During the Industrial Revolution, thousands of children were forced to work numerous hours inside factories for money. The jobs there was dangerous and possibly deadly. Because of this, people fought for laws to right these wrongs. These laws are still in place today.
 


#2 Farrar

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Posted 06 February 2018 - 08:44 PM

Her writing is obviously great in many ways. She's got the grammar, the understanding, the history, the basic organization, a high vocabulary, etc. etc. She's clearly got a lot of promise as a writer. She has varied sentences, she can go from generalizing to specifics... Basically, I think you're right that she's on track. More than, really. This is very good for a 7th grader.

 

The question I often have when I see people share writing on here is... what was the assignment and what was the purpose? For me, as a former classroom history teacher, this isn't something I ever would have expected to have turned in... because I'm not sure what assignment other than "write about this" it could have fulfilled. It's not directed. There's no thesis. But it's also not creative. It's scope is really, really wide. The generalizations are similarly wide and not focused. The jump to 20th century American laws from a paragraph about the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in Europe was particularly a little jarring for me. The points at the end about the laws and our expectations about childhood aren't connected clearly to the ones in the more creative leaning intro.

 

This is not really a critique of her writing, which is above and beyond (especially the use of specifics and quotes) for a student her age. This is on par with high school writing (and I've sadly encountered first year college students who aren't this organized). But this is the age where kids need to be transitioning from doing these sorts of vague summary papers into doing thesis based work. I think it's a real transition for a lot of kids - especially for kids who have always been able to write really well. It's a different way of organizing your points. It's not just chronological order anymore. Reading this, she's definitely ready to make that leap, so I would encourage you to give her the challenge of doing papers that require a thesis.


Edited by Farrar, 06 February 2018 - 08:45 PM.

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#3 mamamoose

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Posted 06 February 2018 - 11:58 PM

Her writing is obviously great in many ways. She's got the grammar, the understanding, the history, the basic organization, a high vocabulary, etc. etc. She's clearly got a lot of promise as a writer. She has varied sentences, she can go from generalizing to specifics... Basically, I think you're right that she's on track. More than, really. This is very good for a 7th grader.

The question I often have when I see people share writing on here is... what was the assignment and what was the purpose? For me, as a former classroom history teacher, this isn't something I ever would have expected to have turned in... because I'm not sure what assignment other than "write about this" it could have fulfilled. It's not directed. There's no thesis. But it's also not creative. It's scope is really, really wide. The generalizations are similarly wide and not focused. The jump to 20th century American laws from a paragraph about the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in Europe was particularly a little jarring for me. The points at the end about the laws and our expectations about childhood aren't connected clearly to the ones in the more creative leaning intro.

This is not really a critique of her writing, which is above and beyond (especially the use of specifics and quotes) for a student her age. This is on par with high school writing (and I've sadly encountered first year college students who aren't this organized). But this is the age where kids need to be transitioning from doing these sorts of vague summary papers into doing thesis based work. I think it's a real transition for a lot of kids - especially for kids who have always been able to write really well. It's a different way of organizing your points. It's not just chronological order anymore. Reading this, she's definitely ready to make that leap, so I would encourage you to give her the challenge of doing papers that require a thesis.


So what kind of specific guidance can you give parents who aren’t writing instructors to assist them in directing their children in the manner you discuss?

#4 Farrar

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Posted 07 February 2018 - 12:49 AM

So what kind of specific guidance can you give parents who aren’t writing instructors to assist them in directing their children in the manner you discuss?

 

I just have been noticing that there are a number of middle school writing assignments posted here that are in this vein - they're basically summary papers. Summary and narration are important skills and if a student hasn't mastered them, then they can absolutely be writing narrations. However, I think maybe homeschoolers should realize that this type of writing is not done in schools at this age at all. And I'm personally not sure what the purpose is once kids have gotten the skills behind summarizing. Summary papers don't typically make for good writing. This one is pretty good - but it still reads to me like "here's a bunch of stuff I learned about this topic." This one synthesizes that information better than most, but it's still a summary at its heart. It strikes me that the author is obviously ready for a more appropriate challenge.

 

Kids this age are into the logic stage. Of course the ability to summarize is always a decent thing to know and practice, and it plays a role in research papers and persuasive essays and so forth, but summaries as a final goal is for grammar stage kids. It's a lower level skill.

 

The writing that kids are going to have to do next - the essays for AP exams and the SAT and so forth - are not like this. The majority of essays kids need to write are going to be thesis based academic essays - that's persuasive papers, literary analysis papers, research papers, etc. The only other big things kids have to write that aren't in that mold are things that are for a specific purpose - an article for their newspaper, a lab report, a professional letter, etc. - and their personal essays for college and other applications.

 

I think if you have a competent writer, then by middle school, cast aside written narration and summary papers as your focus. Make sure that your assignments aren't just "write about this" or "tell me what you learned." Ask specific questions - What was the effect of the Industrial Revolution on childhood? Were labor laws necessary? Are they still necessary? Did the Industrial Revolution improve or destroy childhood? Be specific. Even if it's not for something you're studying, like a research paper, there needs to be a clear thesis that the research goes into supporting. Write persuasive essays as they will be one of the core types of writing kids have to do. Practice thesis statements. Practice personal writing and description. Play around with different genres - there are formats that basically summarize, but take it to a different level. Instead of a summary, have your student write a children's book about the topic or script a podcast about it or write an encyclopedia entry about it, or a book review. That lets them play with different voices.

 

So, yeah, that's my biggest advice... be specific in your assignments and don't focus on summary writing in middle school unless your student is behind. Put the summaries to work to make arguments about history, literature, and the world around you instead.


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#5 PeachyDoodle

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Posted 09 February 2018 - 10:50 AM

Thank you, Farrar, for your excellent thoughts! This is very helpful.

 

This assignment came from WWS 2, under the topoi "definition in history." It was supposed to be an excercise in describing and defining a specific subject -- in this case, dd chose the topic "children during the Industrial Revolution," which coordinated with her history studies. As far as the assignment goes, I think she did carry it off well. But your insights bring up a question I keep returning to more and more lately, and that is: Should we continue with WWS or move on to something else?

 

I do think that WWS lays a solid foundation for persuasive writing, but I also think it's possible that it's a more tedious foundation than dd really needs. I'm frankly not sure where to go from here. WWS has not, as yet, addressed anything close to a thesis. More like little vignettes of various types that down the road can be combined into a more intricate piece.We have done in addition a few literary analysis papers, and some 5-paragraph essays -- which I hate. I found them so stifling when I had to write them in middle school. Like dd, I was very much an intuitive writer. But I am unsure how to make the transition from summary-type work to thesis-based writing, other than using the 5 paragraphs. 

 

I have a degree in English. I certainly know how to craft a thesis and develop the arguments to support it. But I have far less confidence in my ability to *teach* writing than I do in my ability to write, which is why I've relied on WWS, despite its clunkiness. I would love to do our writing more "on the fly," but I'm terrified I'll miss something important.

 

Lots for me to think about and research. Thanks for sharing your expertise!



#6 Farrar

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Posted 10 February 2018 - 09:40 PM

It's so hard for me to say. I know SWB and the WTM method in general have a much, much greater emphasis on summarizing skills than I ever would have imagined necessary. I feel like I understand it in the grammar stage. I have to admit that I don't quite get it for the logic stage. I mean, I get it for *process oriented* writing assignments. Outlining and summarizing that thing you just read... that's good stuff for quick daily assignments. It's just a good practice for anyone learning anything because it forces you to synthesize new learning. But... to me the whole point of the logic stage is moving on from that as a focus.

 

But this was a product oriented assignment - something she had to polish and use citations for. The purpose is to define and describe... Descriptive writing is super important, but I'm not sure if she's really practicing the skills that make it engaging here, probably because she's not an expert and doesn't have the ability to actually describe factory children. Instead it feels summary-like, which is closer to the defintion aspect. I think it helps young writers so much to have a clear form and audience, which this lacks - define and describe for whom?

 

I think it's really on you to decide what your goals are. It's always struck me that WTM methods are pure lead up to academia. And I've only seen WWE and the narrations in SOTW, but I honestly found them to be so formulaic. It's a particular approach. It just doesn't resonate for me in how I've taught writing in the past. I think connecting writing to the real world is super useful and more authentic. But that doesn't mean it's not perfect for some people. I feel much the same about IEW - I find the dress ups to be formulaic and the way it's taught to be overly complex. But some kids need that level of explicit instruction. And some parents aren't comfortable with writing instruction unless they have it.

 

I definitely have my differences with Brave Writer - I know I'm way more schoolish/teachery about essays than the BW people for example. But everyone knows I'm more of a BW type overall. To me, for a writer like this, you just throw out the step by step stuff and write with varied assignments, trying out different forms and voices and audiences. You practice different methods of revision. It feels more useful to me as a writer and a former classroom teacher and it feels more joyous than WWS, honestly. More fun.

 

But that doesn't mean it's right for you... I mean, she's obviously doing fine with WWS. This assignment felt... unmoored to me. And maybe she missed the mark a little bit? One thing that's always great is if someone can pick up a paper and know the assignment off the bat. But that doesn't mean you should necessarily ditch WWS.