I don’t suppose that surfing onto here will be your first thought on Christmas Day, but just in case, may I wish you a very Happy and Holy Christmas.
December 25, 2006
December 18, 2006
The grade expectations here are:
- D – uses clear paragraphs
- C – paragraphs make meaning clear
- B – uses paragraphs to aid meanings
You can focus on paragraph use in the light of:
- paragraph starts to provide discourse markers in non-narrative writing (eg. However, therefore, although. ) Using a variety of verb starts (Barging in from the door…), preposition starts (In a dark room…), adverbial starts (Clumsily knocking over the flower pot, he…) and temporal starts (Meanwhile, Ten minutes later, Immediately);
- in narrative writing, paragraphs using contrast in mood, place, time, tone. In non-narrative writing, paragraphs contrasting points of view or priorities;
- in narrative writing, paragraphs which render an event alternatively from two different characters’ point of view, or alternate narrator’s voice and character’s voice;
- in non-narrative writing, paragraphs which are dedicated to a particular function in the development of purpose eg. statement (I think that…), prioritisation (The most important reason for this is…), concession (Although it is true that…), anticipation (People who disagree with this will say that…) or tentativeness (This may not be the answer to everybody’s problems, but…)
The focus here is on patterns and inconsistencies within a text and between texts, in terms of language, purpose, feeling, genre, value or relevance.
Notice that ‘patterns and inconsistencies’ is not far from ‘similarities and differences’, but reflects the more subtle level at which you are expected to analyse texts.
What do you think might be meant by ‘pattern’ in this context?
December 14, 2006
- The marking criteria for English include the following statements:
At Grade ‘D’ you need to use some variety of sentence structures to achieve effects.
At Grade ‘C’ you must use a range of sentence structures to create effects.
The mark scheme for writing in the exams says that in the B/C band, the candidate is expected to ‘use sentence forms for effect’, and at the A*/A band to ‘use full range of appropriate sentence structures.”
You can usefully focus on sentence structures in the light of:
- clause mobility around the main verb. eg. ‘With his eyes fixed on the leopard, he moved slowly back to the tree.’ / ‘He moved slowly back to the tree, his eyes fixrd on the leopard.’ / ‘He moved slowly, his eyes fixed on the leopard, back to the tree.’ / ‘With his eyes fixed on the leopard, back to the tree, slowly, he moved.’
- varying the sentence structure from subject/verb/object to verb/object/subject or object/subject/verb. ‘Reclining on the Axminster was the feline.’ or ‘On the Axminster reclined the feline.’ [Note the vocabulary choices there: a feline is a cat; Axminster is a type of carpet. These sentences are designed to show how in both sentence structure and vocabulary, students are expected to go well beyond the obvious: 'The cat sat on the mat.']
- reproducing mood and movement in sentence forms. eg. ‘ It was there. It was there in front of him, in the dark. It was there in front of him, in the dark and clearly angry.’ or ‘With an effortless pull of the rope, a looping around the stump, a quick knot and a swift covering with the branch, the boat was secure and out of sight.’
- developing subordination within sentences rather than relying on co-ordination. eg. compare ‘I got up early this morning and felt good about the day’ with ‘Feeling good about the day, I got up early this morning’ or ‘Despite the fact that I got up early this morning, I felt good about the day.’ Similarly, ‘I disagree with you and think you should go now’ compared with ‘ Although I disagree with you, I think you should go now.”
December 11, 2006
The AQA advice on reading skills is divided up a little differently from the advice on writing. It suggests twelve different purposes for reading, which can be used to “generate questions which focus students on different aspects of texts, themselves as readers and on other readers.” Those twelve questions are further subdivided into the categories of:
- Text management and negotiation
- Literary and linguistic knowledge
The idea is for students to develop a ‘questioning repertoire’ so that rather than being confronted with a text and being at a loss as to what to write about, you learn a series of questions that you can ask yourself about the text. Questions on exam papers will focus you on different aspects of this repertoire of reading purposes. The first one is:
Reading for structure (part-whole matching)
The focus here is on parts and the whole, comparing a small extract with the whole text for evidence of the larger scheme within the small sample.
December 7, 2006
Those lovely people at AQA (our exam board), have issued some very useful guidance on how teachers can “help their students to write more successfully at various grade levels if they base teaching and learning on those skills that examiners and moderators are trained to look for.” I hope you’ve noticed that that’s what I try to do. In fact Year 11′s are probably sick already of looking at mark schemes, assessment objectives, grade criteria and the like. I certainly know that I didn’t come into teaching just to squeeze you through those arbitrary hoops, and I hope you occasionally get something more out of my lessons than a gradgrindian slog through what is needed to pass an exam. However, if I’m fair, the hoops you have to jump through are not entirely arbitrary: they are based on skills which can make your writing more effective and interesting, and make your reading more perceptive and interested.
So, I thought that rather than keep the AQA’s wisdom to myself, I would put it up here for you to read, revise and internalise. I will deal with one of the twelve aspects for improving writing or reading (there are twelve of those too) at a time, then probably move the information over to the ‘permanent’ pages on the right so the advice will eventually all be in one place.
Improve your vocabulary by:
1. more expressive verb choices
o ‘screamed’, ‘muttered’, ‘insisted’ rather than ‘said’
o ‘strode’, ‘approached’ rather than ‘went’
o using a range of modal verbs (eg. ‘would’, ‘could’, ‘may’)
o using passive verbs (eg. the destination was reached; the man was bitten by the dog)
o Verb choices should be seen as more effective than adjective choices, particularly in moving on from reliance upon finite verb forms (eg. went, said, did) to use non-finite forms (eg. going, saying, doing) which help to develop subordinate clauses.
2. use of abstract nouns as well as concrete nouns (eg. conscience, ambition, hesitation)
3. use of adjectival and adverbial phrases and clauses eg. ‘with an aggressive manner’; ‘with his eyes narrowed’; ‘relaxing into his chair’; ‘after sipping his drink’
4. varying the vocabulary of different speakers in dialogue (showing awareness of varieties of English for different purposes, including SE and non-SE)
As some of you may know, I have been a part-time teacher since September. I have Wednesday’s off to look after my daughter. I did promise myself I wouldn’t do anything school-related on Wednesdays, but it’s virtually impossible to avoid it. There has been more activity on the Lord of the Flies discussion below, so I have responded to that, but most of you have yet to make any contribution, so come on – get to it.
I’ve also felt obliged to try and crack-on with the interminable Y11 mock exam marking. I had hoped to have Paper 2 marked by now, but I’m still a fair way short of that. However, I’m fairly pleased by most of what I’ve marked so far. Even the relatively weaker responses show a reasonable platform to build on in the coming months, and many of you would achieve your target grades even if you took the real exams now. Do make sure you continually put in the work and revision needed to maximise your potential though, won’t you? As I keep emphasising, practice is the most important thing you can do, and the more you do outside the limited lesson time we have, the better.
The mark scheme criteria for the ‘Writing’ assessment objective for grade A included this descriptor: ” well-informed, drawing on a range of sources,” and for A* it says “demonstrates intellectual rigour and the ability to integrate a range of complex details from varied sources.” How do you get to be well-informed, and able to draw on a range of sources? By reading and listening to a range of sources, of course!
On this blog I hope to point you in the direction of a range of reading and listening matter that you might not come across otherwise, but that will help to equip you with the ‘intellectual rigour’ and exposure to different styles of writing that will help you to see more clearly how to write in appropriate styles for as many different genres, audiences and purposes as possible.
I’ll start you off by asking you to look at this article. I’m genuinely interested in what you think of it.
December 4, 2006
The paper 1 mark-scheme is now available on the English language page.
A useful task to set yourself for Section A would be to use the mark scheme to work out how to improve your answers to get them into the top mark band. I’ll add the texts later to enable you to do this.
December 2, 2006
A few of the Year 10 group have been pitching in with comments on the post about Simon and the Pig’s head below. Please look at them if you haven’t already.
I’d love to see more people contributing on here, and on the SparkNotes board. I think that as I write only about four people have completed the SparkNotes task. Remember for Year 10 that is a piece of set work, not an optional extra. If you have a good reason for not wanting to sign up for a public message board, please let me know, and if I’m satisfied by your reason I will consider accepting a contribution on here. Anyone unable or unwilling to do that task will stay behind next Thursday so that you can use the computers in Room UL2 and I can be on hand to show you how to do it.
You will probably gain more in depth understanding of the text and of how to reach the higher level assessment criteria by forcing yourself to think about the questions and arguments put forward and trying to formulate a response with the evidence to support it than you would from any amount of traditional essay work or class teaching. The more you contribute here, the less we will need to do in class, and the more time we will therefore have for other aspects of the course.
Year 11′s: how about some contributions from you too? You have recently had to answer on Lord of the Flies in the mocks. That will probably have made you realise how much revision you have to do. What better way of doing it than by involving yourselves in these discussions now rather than forgetting about the novel until a few weeks (or days!) before the exam.
Remember, your answer on Lord of the Flies will be worth about 30% of your entire marks for GCSE English Literature. In other words it is by a long way the most significant single aspect of what we cover on this course in terms of your final GCSE results.
So come on: get thinking, and get posting.