Eduqas Component 2 Mock informed teaching: an action plan.
13 Jan 2017
But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
‘O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.
W.H Auden “As I walked out one evening’
One of the pleasures of starting the A-Z of classic Literature challenge this month has been spending some time in the company of W. H Auden (confession: much less enthusiastic about the time spent with Austen’s ‘Emma’!) The delightfully depressing ‘As I walked out one evening’ rang worryingly true when thinking about my Year 11 class this week. Their mock exams on English Language were not a resounding success by any means. The middle band group predominately have target grades of a five or six, yet a significant amount performed at least a grade below this. The malevolent force of time is rapidly stealing the remaining lessons as we gallop towards the total examination time of eight hours and fifteen minutes in May and June.
So I need an action plan, a direction that can ensure that the mock exams lead to positive improvements for students – they need to quickly know how to improve their ability to perform in exam situations. Cue manic reading of examination specifications, example answers, anything I can get hands on then the distilling of this for student focus. The best place I stumbled upon was Keith Neville’s resources which can be accessed here: this is literally an Eduqas bible and an essential read!
To begin with Component 2. This was not a paper that the students performed well on and it is exceedingly troublesome. One hour on a reading section and one hour on a writing section. Given that this is one of the four exams the students are preparing for, I need whatever feedback I give them to be very clear and easily recalled. They are going to be overwhelmed with revision materials and targets in the next few months. The adventure starts with the reading section:
Reading Section: The paper has two extracts that students need to then answer a range of question on. To add to the challenge, there is one from the 19th century and one from the 21st century. There are three questions that are worth ten marks and are particularly difficult. For this post I will focus on how I have tried to encourage students to approach two of these questions in responding to the mocks this week: A2 and A4.
A2: How. All variation of the following: How does the writer persuade us/How does the writer argue their point/How does the writer show us that/How does the writer effectively…
It doesn’t take a genius to recognise the focus of this will be a ‘How’ question. The students answers to this in the mock were gloriously unfocussed and lacking in specific links to the question (cue lots of ranting about waffling this week) In very simple terms what I need them to do is to identify techniques, support with evidence then expand on how the evidence is persuasive. So having been inspired by Joe Kirkby’s brilliant post on the benefits of mnemonics and how to make the forgettable memorable, this week I introduced the TEE acronym to the group, accompanied with the following images:
Very very simply: HOW = golf tee. Naturally. Without a golf tee a drive would be a disaster. Without identifying the technique in the ‘how’ questions then the answer will have no focus. T = technique E = evidence E = expand. If students follow the TEE structure they will pick up marks. Mr T image conveniently reminds students of the disaster that will occur if they do not TEE. Clear? In order to completely spell this out for students, I will be purchasing them all an individual golf tee for when they enter the exam. How = golf tee. The focus of the final image is to remind students of the danger of the waffle and of deviating from the TEE method. Obviously. The morning of the exam there will be waffle style breakfast provided; I want the students to develop an increased understanding of when they are deviating from the structure of the question.
The only issue is the students struggling to identify techniques. So I have made this question focus sheet: How question to remind students of techniques to look for. It is also supported with an example answer for the question and reminders of how to structure the answer. The students will be training themselves over the next few months to identify techniques the first time they read over the articles, thus allowing them to follow the points when they complete the How questions. We did this in today’s lesson as we read through an article for the first time, using the sheets to help to identify techniques they could use for their homework question:
We went through some example answers to identify the TEE structure then students were given five minutes to improve a section of their mock response, self assessing them against the TEE method:
A4: Thoughts/Feelings. All a variation on the following: What do you think and feel about the writer’s views?
Another question that students answered without linking to the question throughout. Most wrote about how the writer herself felt. So in order to focus them on their personal response to the texts and develop their ability to reflect on what they are reading this image will accompany every time students see this question for the next few months:
The purpose of this is that students need to emotionally connect with the question, they need to be prepared to highlight what they think and feel about the opinion offered in the article. To scaffold this for them, I again provided them with this think/feel support sheet: Think and feel question, highlighting the various ways in which they might respond to an extract. This again includes a full mark answer for them and direction about how to answer the question. Then we looked at the model answers and identified the constant repetition of think/feel throughout. They repeated their answers using this method, highlighting their use of think/feel
The writing section of the exam involves students competing two thirty minute responses from a range of non-fiction options. The mock question I have focussed on in feedback this week asked students to write a complaint letter after a disastrous train journey. Their complaint letters, to put it politely, were ludicrous: frothing with unpalatable rage that presented train journeys that boarded on some hellish dystopian vision. One young man’s generated into an epic fist fight with a collection of passengers, one spent the whole response lambasting the unfortunately overweight chap who she was placed next to. The train companies fault, obviously. So, I needed them to understand how to write effectively for purpose and audience. They couldn’t structure the letter effectively and write in a subtle and politely irritated fashion. So I wrote this example: Train Thom, a train complaint for them. We took a lesson to go through the letter carefully, reflecting on how it linked to the mark scheme and how it addressed the targets I shared with them at the start:
The students then redrafted their own responses, using the targets we had explored as a class:
While I appreciate the proof will come when students next complete an unseen task, there is notable difference in the tone of the piece of writing and the clarity of the writing. Students need lots and lots of practise of this over the next few months so I have planned out and shared the writing tasks with them they will answer at home for the next month. The purpose of this homework task is also to ensure that students have an opportunity to practise the ten mark questions and that they are regularly reading challenging non-fiction texts at home, using these as models to help them with the writing tasks. The weeks will alternative between modern texts and Victorian texts:
Week one: Holiday Article – Sun, Sea and Cigarette Butts: How does the writer persuade readers the holiday experience was not a good one? (10 marks) Write a review of a holiday experience you have had for a magazine called ‘Holiday Weekly’.
Week two: Execution of a 12 year old boy What do you think and feel about the writer’s view of the boy? (10 marks) Write a formal letter to the council, explaining why you think the behaviour of young people in your town is unacceptable.
Week three: Extract: Jay Rayner comments that he was not especially academic or good at school work. How does he try to convince us of this? Write a lively article for your school magazine, arguing for a reduction in homework.
Week four: Extract What do you think and feel about Mr Heritage writing to Mr Halmer instead of Henry? (10 marks). Write a speech in which you inform young people about the importance of a good education.
Lots more thought will go into these early reflections, but I am of the adage that if students didn’t perform particularly well in the mocks is my responsibility to sort it out. What I do have ownership is over the clarity of the information I provide them and the clear direction and structure of the next five months. Teaching a specification for the first time is always a nerve wracking experience, but to return to Auden’s poem: “in headaches and in worry/vaguely life leaks away.” No time for pedestrianism and fretting: it is time to conquer time and make sure they are empowered to do well!