An Attempt at a Differentiated Thematic Essay Assessment

The principle reason I started Mark’s Text Terminal in 2015, in its second iteration, was to open a conversation with other educators on how best to serve the struggling learners in our schools. By that time, I’d developed enough material for these kids (and some of it for one or two kids only) that I wanted to offer it as an example of how I approached the needs of the kids I served. That remains the mission of this blog.

Now, as I start to dig deeper into some folders I haven’t opened in several years, I find some interesting stuff. Several years ago, I started looking at the various standardized, high-stakes tests New York State required the students I served to take. One commonplace in these tests was the thematic essay. Indeed, local tests, written by teachers in schools, often deployed this method of assessment as well.

Because the New York State Global Studies Regents Examinations are reputedly difficult, I decided to work up this structured thematic essay learning support. As I recall, I used it as an instrument for direct instruction, asking students a variety of questions secondary to those on the worksheet itself. Judging from the document, I aimed to get kids thinking and talking about the themes in the worksheet themselves, but also to think more broadly about the idea of a theme and a thematic essay.

Then I put the document away and neither thought about nor used it again. So I would be particularly interested in your comments on this as a way of helping students understand the compositional requirements of a thematic essay as well as the underlying concepts of “theme” and “thematic.”

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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