As a history teacher there are certain words and phrases which make me wince when I see them being used by examination students. I therefore use my classroom window word wall to list words and phrases which are not only useful, but also those which I do not want to see being used.

Structured Questions

My key banned phrase for topic sentences in essays and structured questions is “On the one hand…on the other hand” (the ultimate ‘fence-sitter’ response). The main image shows here how one of my windows is used to gather alternatives. In this way, during test conditions and in homework, students have a ready list of useful ‘balancing phrases’ which express a meaningful position (‘Although, in some minor respects,….Nevertheless, more fundamentally…’) without creating written pieces which appear noncommital.

Sourcework Questions

Another window in my classroom has a similar list of words to help students evalulate source material. Here, the banned phrase is ‘This is a primary source so it is reliable because….this is a secondary source so it is reliable because…’ (the classic stock response in sourcework questions for students that can’t be bothered to reflect properly on the particular source(s) they are presented with).

In this case, I provide students with other words. During revision time I ask them to rank these from words which suggest ‘most reliable’ down to ‘least reliable’. Once again, this helps students broaden their vocabulary and provide a more nuanced response to examination questions. For example, how would you rank these words in that manner?

  • Partial
  • Biased
  • Partisan
  • Prejudiced
  • Bigoted
  • Vitriolic
  • Contradictory
  • Ill-informed
  • Well-informed
  • Propagandistic
  • Censored
  • Edited
  • Impartial
  • Objective
  • Subjective
  • Secondary
  • Primary