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Day 106: Just Getting Started
By Mark Heintz
Jan 31, 2020

Day 106

Student contribution by Evrem 

It’s not always what you know. As I have written a few times recently, the students know more than they give themselves credit; they struggle with accessing the information. The students taking the information they know and recognizing when it’s useful. As the students cite,

“I need more help with [document writing] and knowing what information to put in my writing…often the documents we read aren’t easy to take away from and I struggle to find the correct answers.”

As an example of this, I had the students read a document on the Tanzimat Reforms in the Ottoman Empire. In the document are a few reforms and the potential impact of them. However, the document was complicated to understand. It uses a lot of specific locations within the empire and jargon specific to the empire. At the same time, the students know information about what the Ottoman had done prior, what was happening in the world, and what the Ottoman’s attempted to do to keep their empire strong.

The students struggle with what information they knew to tap into to respond to the prompt. To help them, I tweaked the prompt. I had the students have a purpose. Knowing that the reforms don’t stop the empire from collapsing, I asked them to come from a point of view that belittles the efforts taken by the Ottomans.

Armed with a purpose, their opinion backed by historical knowledge allowed the students to start the writing process. I’m finding that starting is one of the hardest parts of writing. The task seems too challenging for them to start. Therefore, most don’t or spend most of their time thinking about how they could be wrong.