To develop analytical and essay-writing skills in a collaborative and engaging manner, start by gathering a series of photographs relating to the topic in question:

  • A pile of cartoons and photographs (maybe about 20 of these)
  • Podcasts
  • Video clips
  • Textbooks
  • Articles

Next, divide the class into groups. Within each group, three students should be responsible for organising the cartoons into meaningful categories to answer the key question for the lesson (in the photograph shown here, cartoons are being organised into meaningful categories to help understand “Why was the Marshall Plan so controversial?”). _Marshall1

Whilst the ‘cartoonists’ are busy discussing how to arrange the images meaningfully, another student should be listening to the podcasts, another watching the video, another reading the article, and another reading a textbook (it is a good idea to let students choose the task they are most comfortable with, as far as possible). As they spot any evidence that helps answer the key question, they should write it on a sticky-note (this helps them to keep their points short and focused).

When the cartoonists have finished organising their images into categories that make sense to them, the next step is to give each category a heading, and to link the categories together in a meaningful manner by spotting causal links and natural overlaps. At this stage, I get different ‘cartoonists’ to swap places with the member of an another team, the members of which then explain their diagram to their ‘visitor’. Each person then returns back to their original team and makes suggested amendments based on any bright ideas gleaned from the other team or teams.

At this stage, the readers/viewers/listeners will start to be joining the cartoonists, bringing their sticky notes with them. Their job, working with the team, is to discuss the answer that appears to be emerging, and to determine where to place their sticky-notes to best effect to help provide the essential detail to give substantiation to the ideas identified in the cartoons.




Thereafter, each group can compare and contrast the answers that they have formulated, before each individual student provides a formal written response to the key question using their completed diagrams to help them.