Sequence markers

Sequence Markers as a landscape

It is important that students structure their texts clearly, and so we teach them Sequence Markers, and warmly recommend that they use them. The result is that very often moreover they end up secondly scattered all over above all the text furthermore ... So, how do we get them to use sequence markers appropriately? And what, exactly, does 'appropriately' mean anyway?

This graphic is an attempt to present, visually, a sense of how sequence markers are appropriately used at different points in the ... architecture? profile? landscape? of an argument or explanation. I trust that it is clear that the horizontal axis represents the 'timeline' of the piece of writing, and the vertical axis indicates significance or emphasis - the higher, the more important the element of argument that is introduced.





This, of course, raises the issue of 'feel for the language'. One can teach formal rules, formally expressed, and/or ask students to look up all of these words in a dictionary - but this is unlikely to generate the kind of instant judgement (or 'feel') which is necessary to write with ease and accuracy. What is needed is that the language learner understands the relation between such a variety of options - and this, it would seem, is best embodied in some kind of 'model' of this sort.


In which different ways can we teach this idea to students ?

Simple presentation

* Photocopy the graphic and give it out 

... (saves time ... but will they really register the idea, or just stick it in a file and lose it?)

* Photocopy the graphic, give it out, and then set a task (or several tasks, over weeks) with the specific requirement that the students show that they are using the graphic

... (more laborious, but will surely embed the concept more securely)

Elicit the idea

* Give them the words, all jumbled up, and ask them (in pairs?) to sort them out into some sort of sequence

... (but what happens if someone comes up with some totally different pattern? ... well, check it out - it might be a better one! Anyway, one can always then give out the original graphic and discuss which seems better / more accurate / more useful...)

* Give them the words, all jumbled up AND the basic graphic of the 'idea-line' - ask them to place the words appropriately on the line

... (more likely to lead them straight to the model you want - less chance of confusion?)

Model text with gaps

* Find (or write) a text which uses such sequence markers well, blank out the markers, and give the class a jumbled list of the sequence markers. They should fit the markers to the gaps. Then, collect results, and discuss why people have chosen to certain markers in certain places.

... (depends on the quality of the basic text, of course, but a clear task which might be of help particularly with a weak class who need leading by the hand...)

As essay-planning exercise

* Once the class has suggested all the elements of an essay (noted on the whiteboard / smartboard / computer projection, etc) - give the jumbled list, and ask them to fit one marker to introduce each signficant idea

...(requires that students actively grasp both the structure of the argument, and then the relative structure of the sequence markers)

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